James McMurtry’s recent studio albums, 2005’s Childish Things and 2008’s Just Us Kids, earned him formidable accolades. The Village Voicecalled him “a poet of the people.” Stephen King, writing in Entertainment Weekly, pronounced him “the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation.” Yet a lot of current McMurtry converts were introduced through the 2004 release Live in Aught-Three. Live albums aren’t typically greeted with rave reviews, but McMurtry’s rockin’ treatments of songs like “Choctaw Bingo” and “Out Here in the Middle” in concert made an uncanny translation to record. The Austin Chronicle proclaimed, “This is no-frills, freak-flag rock. Turn it up!” PopMatters called it “a snapshot of where McMurtry is now, [marking him] as a legitimate inheritor of the Texas songwriting tradition.”
Now, on October 13, 2009, Lightning Rod Records will release Live in Europe, a document of McMurtry’s first European tour, on which he was joined by keyboardist Ian McLagan and fellow Texas songwriting legend Jon Dee Graham. The set will be 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.
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, released in 1989, was produced by John Mellencamp and marked the beginning of a series of acclaimed projects for Columbia and Sugar Hill. 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. The album marked his highest Billboard 200 chart position in more than 19 years.
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.”
McMurtry will tour the U.S. and Europe this fall in support of the live album.