James McMurtry

James McMurtry

"The simple fact is that James McMurtry may be
the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation…"
Stephen King | Entertainment Weekly

The son of acclaimed author Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment), James grew up on a steady diet of Johnny Cash and Roy Acuff records. His first album,Too Long in the Wasteland (released in 1989), was produced by John Mellencamp and marked the beginning of a series of acclaimed projects for Columbia and Sugar Hill. In 1996, McMurtry received a Grammy nomination for his Longform Music Video ofWhere'd You Hide The Body. 1997′s It Had To Happen received the American Indie Award for Best Americana Album.

In 2004, McMurtry released the universally lauded Live in Aught-Three on Compadre Records. 2005′s Childish Things garnered some of the highest critical praise of McMurtry's career and spent six weeks at No. 1 on the Americana Music Radio Chart in 2005 and 2006. In September 2006, Childish Things and "We Can't Make It Here" won the Americana Music Awards for Album and Song of the Year, respectively. McMurtry received more Americana Music Award nominations for 2008′s Just Us Kids. This album marked his highest Billboard 200 chart position in more than 19 years.

In 2009, Live in Europe was released, capturing The McMurtry Band's first European tour and extraordinary live set. Along with seasoned band members Ronnie Johnson, Daren Hess, and Tim Holt, the disc features special guests Ian McLagan and Jon Dee Graham. Also, for the first time ever, video of the James McMurtry Band's live performance is available on the included DVD.

The poignant lyrics of his immense catalog still ring true today. In 2011, "We Can't Make It Here" was cited among 'The Nation's' "Best Protest Songs Ever." Bob Lefsetz writes, "'We Can't Make It Here' has stood the test of time because of its unmitigated truth."

Never one to rest on his laurels, James McMurtry continues to tour constantly, and consistently puts on a "must-see" powerhouse performance. 'The Washington Post' noted McMurtry's live prowess: "Much attention is paid to James McMurtry's lyrics, and rightfully so: He creates a novel's worth of emotion and experience in four minutes of blisteringly stark couplets. What gets overlooked, however, is that he's an accomplished rock guitar player. At a sold-out Birchmere, the Austin-based artist was joined by drummer Daren Hess and bassist Ronnie Johnson in a set that demonstrated the raw power of wince-inducing imagery propelled by electric guitar. It was serious stuff, imparted by a singularly serious band."

On October 13, 2009, Lightning Rod Records released Live in Europe, a document of McMurtry's first European tour, on which, along with long-time band members Ronnie Johnson, Daren Hess, and Tim Holt, he was joined by keyboardist Ian McLagan and fellow Texas songwriting legend Jon Dee Graham. The set is available as a CD with a bonus DVD, or as a deluxe vinyl LP package with a CD and DVD insert. In early 2009, James McMurtry and his trio traveled overseas to play their first European tour. The guys played for enthusiastic crowds in Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, The Netherlands, Scotland and Belgium. Joining the band on keyboards for the tour was the legendary Ian McLagan (who also played on McMurtry's latest studio album, Just Us Kids). The best recordings from the Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Geislingen, Germany concerts were combined to create Live in Europe. The album includes a bonus DVD featuring performances from the Amsterdam show. This marks the first time fans will be able to purchase video footage of McMurtry live in concert. The deluxe vinyl version includes inserted copies of the CD and DVD. Fellow Austin-based songwriter Jon Dee Graham opened the shows and joins the band on a version of his tune "Laredo" on the bonus DVD.

On February 1, 2011, two of James McMurtry's most popular albums, Childish Things and Live in Aught-Three were reissued by Lightning Rod Records. Live in Aught-Three has been remastered since its original 2004 release and will be available on vinyl for the first time. The deluxe double LP also includes a copy of the album on CD. Less -
Videos & Press

James McMurtry and the art of the American song

[Creative Loafing] By Alec Wooden Stories — the art of telling them, anyway — have never been lost on James McMurtry. The son of acclaimed novelist Larry McMutry, the Fort-Worth born and Virginia-raised James picked up the art at a young age, trading in his father's medium (the pen) for his own (a guitar, which [...]
Video: James McMurtry – America's "Fiercest Songwriter"

[CNN.com] It's got to be tough being a well-known artist, yet still being compared to your better known dad. Singer-songwriter James McMurtry seems to take it pretty well. He is the son of author Larry McMurtry, author of "Lonesome Dove" and "Terms of Endearment" to name a few. Another author, Stephen King, calls James McMurty [...]
James McMurtry's second language is music

[Knoxville News-Sentinel] By Wayne Bledsoe James McMurtry has become known as one of America's great songwriters. Stephen King has said that McMurtry, "may be the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation," and his songs, including best-known numbers "Choctaw Bingo," "Levelland" and "We Can't Make It Here Anymore," bear that out. However, since the release of [...]

Javi Garcia

avi Garcia—La Reconquista
There’s a young man coming round, and he’s armed for bear.

From Steve Earle’s You Know the Rest:
“Davey Crockett went out to Texas
To fight at the Alamo
Old Will Travis never told him
Texas is in Mexico
It’s a bloody mess
You know the rest”

I was a bit put off when I removed the disc from the cover and saw a caricature of the devil grinning up at me. I’m no fan of that bastard. Matter of fact I detest everything he stands for. But it didn’t take more than a few seconds for the first song on the disc to grab my attention. An interesting voice and well played music snapped my head to full alert; hard hitting lyrics, truth, anger, passion, all the stuff that separates real songs from the rest, kept me listening to the end. By the third pass, I was singing along with the record.

The sound is more rock than country, but decidedly Texan and Americana in theme. I hear shades of Ryan Bingham and a young Steve Earle before they got bought, but perhaps even more pissed off than either ever was. That’s OK with me: if you ain’t pissed off, you ain’t paying attention. There’s a song that could be Rolling Stones. Echoes of Chris Knight on another. Still another that sounds like blue grass. Javi Garcia is no one trick pony.

As for the devil: there’s entirely too much truth in Javi’s work for all of his inspiration to originate from the dark side. Been my experience more often than not that real evil comes cloaked in fine threads and false smiles, or uniforms of the state, perhaps draped in crosses and other religious garb, in a man with pen in hand, a contract in the other, reeking of cologne, lies sliding off lips like butter and honey, or painted eyes and thick perfume, or perhaps black riot gear and baklavas that hide the faces of our legal assassins….


Javi arrives in a small economy car. He’s barrel-chested, light skinned with a mop of unruly dark hair and intelligent brown eyes. Tattoos cover his hands, arms and the part of his chest that his long sleeved shirt doesn’t hide. It doesn’t take long for me to see that Javi isn’t the hoodlum or the killer or the dope head that appears in his songs. And he’s a long way from some sort of devil worshipper too. To be honest, he’s polite, well-mannered and pleasant.

He was raised near the Rio Grande River in Weslaco, Texas. Javier describes Weslaco as a hard place where half the people there don’t give a shit about anything, including themselves: a place brimming with citrus, drugs, hate, and sweltering heat.

He’s the product of a broken marriage. His dad is a cop and has been married a number of times. Javi never knew his paternal grandfather, but when he did meet the man he learned he had been a musician. When his granddad found out Javi was also a musician, he suggested that he should quit. Thanks for the support, grandpa.

Javi describes more than a normal share of his mother’s side of the family as criminals, murderers, drunks and other types to bad to be discussed even in Weslaco. He never knew his maternal grandfather, but knows that he too was a musician and played the accordion. A stepgrandfather Javi did know was murdered shortly after Javi’s parents divorced: machine gunned to death in Rio Grande city, his body then burned in his own van. The killers weren’t found.

At some point in Javi’s young life, he found himself homeless in his own hometown, sleeping on borrowed couches, working in a bar, saving money so he could get out of town. The day came when Javi sold all his possessions and headed for San Antonio. He arrived with no car, no guitar, just a bag of clothes and a dream. He took a job answering phones and got fired for being rude to some lady.

San Antonio seemed too much like Weslaco for Javi so he struck out for New Braunfels, hoping to make it in the music business. Getting gigs proved difficult, but Javi persisted. He wrote songs, played where he could and saved money to make a record. Roel Piña, an uncle, kicked in additional money and Javi bought five days of studio time. The resulting double CD, A Southern Horror, Madly in Anger, is recorded live with minimal post production work. Javier produced the discs himself because he didn’t want to compromise his vision and couldn’t afford to pay someone else to produce the record anyway. Not many of the songs will be suitable for radio play due to cuss words.

Javi Garcia has recorded a journey through and from the borderlands, a place that has produced few successful musicians, a place whose residents are ignored and marginalized by the countries both to the north and the south; a place where having a real job is the exception to the rule, particularly for those of younger generations. The pictures Javi paints aren’t pretty. I’d call them dark as hell. But with A Southern Horror Javi has written, played, sung and produced exactly the record he wanted to make. Some will love it. Others will hate it. Few will fall between those extremes. Any that dare listen will be moved. I think his is a voice that needs to be heard. For the record, I fall firmly into the love it camp. This one will make my best of the year list, without doubt. Already has.

Javi sings most of his songs in first person, some obviously borrowed from the lives of others. He opens with a young man singing to his mom, telling her he’ll kill her piece of shit abusive husband. Before the song is over, the blood of her abuser mixes with the water of the Comal County River. Then we learn that same blood flows through Javi’s veins; her abuser is his dad, and the deed never took place outside of some dream, for Javi was a kid while all this took place. The songs get darker. A vet of the Mid East war appears, a vet that went to war not to defend God and country but instead in a futile attempt to feed his family after the job in Cameron County went away in this goddamned thing they call a global economy. The man now lies near a bed pan lamenting the days before he went to war and left his legs buried in desert sand. In yet offering another Javi places himself into the blue garb of a cop, one bloodstained hand tilting the scales of justice, the other bearing the weight of a loaded gun.

Anger and the pain of failed relationships rip and tear through other songs; misguided forays into booze and drugs rear sneering heads as Javi strains for relief but finds none. The anger of rejection Javi has encountered is laced throughout the work. The music business is tough for a good ol’ white boy, tougher yet for those of Mexican extraction.

Javi has had a rough go so far. The end of his story remains unwritten. I’m reminded of Steve Earle’s Unrepentant, as a young man picks up his weapon and hits the road, headed toward a collision with the devil, only in Javi’s case, his weapon is a guitar and a handful of true words. The gauntlet waits. Fire, blood, brimstone. Anger, fear, prejudice, hatred of the truth. Curses will fly. Bodies will fall. His will be no fairy tale where everyone walks away and lives happily ever after. But it’ll be undeniably real. And not less than a bit scary. True southern horror, you might say.

Buena suerte, Javier Garcia, Jr.

May God have mercy on us.


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