James McMurtry has always been a fine songwriter, but he has matured in many ways since the late ’80s, when John Mellencamp produced his first record. His playing, especially on electric guitar, is on par with many notables. His songwriting is clear and precise, and he proves once again that he is not afraid to take on the powers that be.
Several songs here won’t make him friends on the the political right. “Cheney’s Toy” is a slow march that indicts the Vice President on a number of levels, mostly in regard to the Iraq War. It features blistering leads from McMurtry. The title cut relates to anyone who grew up in a small town, regardless of political affiliation, while “God Bless America (Pat McDonald Must Die)” is a political statement that leaves no doubt about his stance while showcasing a searing solo from the Neil Young school. “Hurricane Party” doesn’t mention Katrina by name, but you get the idea. “The Governor” tells a creepy (in the best way!) story of boating and death.
“Bayou Torhous” is a swampy hard rocker that features C.C. Adcock on guitar, while “Fireline Road” features John Dee Graham on searing electric guitar. McMurtry’s vocals are delivered almost monotone, but his voice is laden with honesty and character.
With each album, James McMurtry continues to grow as a player, singer, and songwriter.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s May ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.