Thursday, April 21, 2011

James McMurtry: "Live In Europe" (2009) CD Review

The newest album by James McMurtry is a collection of live recordings from shows at Geislingen and Amsterdam. Most of the songs on the CD first appeared on 2008's Just Us Kids. Excellent songwriting, some fun tunes, cool vocals and a bonus DVD make this an album worth owning.

"Bayou Tortue"

The album starts with "Bayou Tortue," which is an excellent song. It's impossible to listen to this song at a low volume. The stereo will turn it up on its own accord, at the joy of having the disc playing. The song rocks, and the lyrics are cool. What more could one want from the opening number of a live album?

Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Take my hand Oklahoma Jane/One little dance wouldn't hurt a thing/Now it's noon I'm rolling up the drive/And I ain't even got a decent lie/Doesn't everybody get that way sometimes/I was lookin' at every woman but mine/I was lookin' at the faces, lookin' at the parts/Lookin' through the hole in the bottom of my heart." Those are some great lyrics.

(Note: On "Just Us Kids," the song is listed as "Bayou Tortous.")

"Just Us Kids"

"Just Us Kids" is a great song about being young and then suddenly being older but still being a kid. Yes, life is short. Everyone knows it, but this song expresses it so well. It's the title track off of McMurtry's 2008 release. The song is reminiscent of Tom Petty's best work.

The lyrics include this: "Just us kids hanging out today/Watching our long hair turnin' grey/Not so skinny maybe not so free/Not so many as we used to be."

"Hurricane Party"

"Hurricane Party" is possibly the best song on the album. Maybe it's the vocals, but something about this song calls to mind Lou Reed. This is just a seriously cool song.

Check out these lyrics: "Candles flickered on the back bar/The building was shakin from the wind/I bought a whiskey for the gypsy/And she turned my leather back into skin/Just a fleeting sense/Of that rare suspense/I once thought made the world go 'round."

"You'd A' Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die)"

"You'd A' Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die)" is an excellent song, and though the title might suggest it, the lyrics don't mention Leonard Cohen at all. James McMurtry has said that the lyrics of this song reminded him of a Cohen song, and that he was still writing it when they were supposed to be recording it. So he told the musicians that if it hadn't been for Leonard Cohen they wouldn't have had to spend half the day waiting on him. Thus, the parenthetical title.
As a side note, James McMurtry also has a song titled, "God Bless America (Pat MacDonald Must Die)."

"Ruby And Carlos"
"Ruby And Carlos" has the sound of a song played late at night in a smokey bar. A song the singer plays just for himself, unaware of any audience that might still be sticking around. It's totally cool, and the lyrics are sad and serious. Here's a bit: "Ruby turned fifty in a sheep camp tent/Her body still could rock all night/But her heart was closed and locked up tight."

Ian McLagan Rocks On "Freeway View"

Ian McLagan is featured on the keyboards on "Freeway View," a song which seriously rocks. Ian McLagan was a member of the band Small Faces (which later became The Faces when Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood joined). He's also worked as a session musician for Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Cocker and Jackson Browne. And it's wonderful to hear him play with James McMurtry.

The Band

The band on this album is as follows: James McMurtry on lead vocals and guitar, Ronnie Johnson on bass and harmony vocals, Daren Hess on drums, Ian McLagan on keyboards and Tim Holt on guitar. (And on the DVD, Jon Dee Graham performs lead vocals and guitar on "Laredo.")

Bonus DVD

This album contains a second disc which is a DVD of songs performed at a show at Paradiso in Amsterdam. "Choctaw Bingo," the first song, is nearly ten minutes long. Man, the lyrics are relentless, and the song seriously grows on the listener. "We Can't Make It Here" is an excellent song, originally appearing on James McMurtry's 2005 release, Childish Things.

"Laredo" is a Jon Dee Graham song, and he comes out and performs lead vocals and guitar on it. But the song starts with a pointless flipping off of a music critic. It's the only song that maybe doesn't deserve to be included on this release.

"Too Long In The Wasteland" is a nice, extended jam, and the footage includes lots of extreme close-ups. This song was originally released as the title track of McMurtry's 1989 album.

CD Track List

The following is the track list for James McMurtry's Live In Europe:

  1. Bayou Tortue
  2. Just Us Kids
  3. Hurricane Party
  4. You'd A' Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die)
  5. Fraulen O.
  6. Ruby And Carlos
  7. Freeway View
  8. Restless

This is the track list for the DVD:

  1. Choctaw Bingo
  2. You'd A' Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die)
  3. Freeway View
  4. We Can't Make It Here
  5. Laredo
  6. Too Long In The Wasteland
(Note: I originally posted this review on March 20, 2010.)

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