Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Album Review: James McMurtry - Complicated Game

This week James McMurtry releases Complicated Game, his first studio album in six years (that was Just Us Kids). I'm probably one of a very few set of people who love McMurtry's music, but am not a big fan of his protest songs. Yet, I can say, I love everything about this release. McMurtry's strength is story telling, I guess you can say he's a fiction writer like his father, just a different media. Produced by C.C. Adcock and Mike Napolitano, Complicated Game is full of stories of the working man and catches your attention with the opening lyrics: "Don't yell at me while I'm cleaning my gun" and Copper Canteen continues with a vivid account of the song's hero.  The album proceeds in a similar vein - vivid storytelling. You Got To Me is another remembrance song, while How'm I Gonna Find You Now is vintage McMurtry staccato rap. My favorite track is Carlisle's Haul, a song about fishermen, which apparently received its inspiration from McMurtry spending time on the southern Potomac where it meets the Chesapeake. Deaver's Crossing has a great melody and the album concludes with Cutter, a slow, serious, song of introspection. I think this is his best overall album yet - perhaps not an individual hit like Just Us Kids or Levelland, but the overall quality of each song makes this a classic album.

The musicianship is also first rate; completely expected when you examine the cast of players. McMurtry's traveling band consists of Daren Hess (drums), Tim Holt (electric guitar) and Cornbread Traylor (bass), and all perform on the album, but McMurtry had loads of assistance recording Complicated Game. Producer Adcock plays the electric guitar on most tracks and there are appearances by Curtis McMurtry (Banjo), Rick Nelson (Violin, cello), Sam Broussard(Strings), Derek Trucks (Slide guitar), Sam Broussard (Electric guitar), Richard Comeaux (Pedal steel), Kevin Smith (Upright bass), Benmont Tench (Hammond B3, Wurli, Piano), Danny Barnes (Banjo, Ivan Neville (Moog bass), Dirk Powell (Mandolin, fiddle, banjo, upright bass, violin, harpsichord), Donald Shaw (Piano, accordion, harmonium), Warren Storm (Drum kit), Dustin Welch (Banjo), Dave Rosser (Bass), Denny Freeman (Bari guitar), and Doyle Bramhall II (Backing vocals). Now, that's some talent.

Evidently, McMurtry and the band are fans of Lagunitas Brewing Company so pair Complicated Game with a Little Sumpin' Sumpin' or Hop Stoopid Ale. Cheers. 

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