James McMurtry

Childish Things – 2005 (Compadré)

Reviewed by Brian Steinberg

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CDs by James McMurtry

The guitar-slinging son of novelist Larry McMurty continues to burn brightly, in his first studio recording since the blistering live set "Live in Aught-Three."

This serves up more of that dish - smart story-songs filled with literary detail, backed by strong guitar work and inventive arrangements. While McMurtry's limited vocal range might leave lesser talents sounding like Lou Reed choking on prairie dust, McMurtry uses it to his advantage, coming across like a wizened narrator of real-life incident.

The title track gets right down to the nitty-gritty with lyrics such as "Aunt Clara kept her Bible right next to the phone, in case she needed a quote while she talked to someone." The level of detail makes the singer's characters come to life in an instant, and the guitar, drums and organ take things home.

Joe Ely guests on a cover of "Ole Slew Foot," and McMurtry makes things political with "We Can't Make It Here," an indictment of the way politicians are handling a number of affairs both local and global these days. Another fine album from an artist who continues to find new frontiers.