James McMurtry – Live in Europe – CD and DVD –
Genetics can be a powerful influence on one’s life, whether it is environmental, career, or other aspects of our lives. Most often, genetics will have the greater influence. In James McMurtry’s case, it would prove to be everything.
His Father, as most already know, is the internationally renowned novelist, Larry McMurtry, who has written so many great books. Books like Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show, and Terms of Endearment are some of his most well known and were all made into memorable motion pictures. Why? Because they were all so intriguing in their accurate characterizations of the people of Texas. These portrayals are all so very non-stereotypical. Yet Texans along with New Yorkers are probably the most stereotyped of all Americans.
If you want to see how Texans really are, then read one of Larry McMurtry’s novels. If you want to see how New Yorkers really behave. Then go watch a Marty Scorsese flick. Both of these artists are sure to deliver accurate portrayals of their respective fellow citizens because they have the necessary knowledge of both of their environments to bring their character interpretations to life and make them credible.
James McMurty takes this same thought and applies it to his vocation. He writes lyrics for his music as vivid as anything his Father has ever written for his books. If you don’t believe me, listen to his “Choctaw Bingo”, a signature song of his that possesses characters as authentic as any one of the characters from ‘The Last Picture Show’. He is absolutely to music what the elder McMurtry is to novels.
I sat on these thoughts for a good two weeks because I wanted to avoid comparisons to his Father, but it proved to be an impossible task. There is just no way it could have been done. Not by me any way. I’m too big of a fan of both of them to write about one without mentioning the other. Then I finally came to the following conclusion; James McMurtry is probably as proud of his Father as his Father is of him.
Speaking of “Choctaw Bingo”, the first song on the set, expertly filmed for James McMurtry’s latest release, Live in Europe (Lightning Rod Records), and shot by Fabchannel at Paradiso, a venue in Amsterdam, is an absolutely amazing jam that runs almost ten minutes. It’s ten of the most incredible minutes I’ve spent witnessing a live performance so far this year. James McMurtry on vocals and guitar, Ronnie Johnson on bass and harmony vocals, Daren Hess on drums, Ian McLagan on keyboards, and Tim Holt, also on guitar, are clicking on all pistons and have the crowd groovin’ right along with them. There is not a soul in the house who is sitting down. McMurtry’s vocals are perfection and his band compliments every bar, ever word, every stanza of every song. They work as the perfect ensemble. If you remove one piece of this ensemble and you have 80% of a song. They all must be present to make this work and they are.
As incredible as “Choctaw Bingo” was to start the DVD out, it was nothing in comparison to what was to come. The fifth song to the set is “Laredo”, and Jon Dee Graham steps on stage to perform his song with McMurtry and band. I could never have prepared myself for what I was about to witness. Graham steps on to the stage and is clearly pissed. Apparently, an Amsterdam music critic had said he wasn’t impressed with Mr. Graham’s earlier performance. Mr. Graham has a few choice words for the critic who is supposedly in the audience, then starts the most fantastic four minutes and thirty-nine seconds I have experienced in my life. Amazing. If it’s true that one can “rock a house”, then this is what it would look and sound like.
The production value that went into the DVD is very simple when you look at it on the surface. The thought that entered my brain, however, is if I had never seen James McMurtry live, this is how I would have pictured it in my head. It is constructed perfectly, the editing is impeccable and contains an element of fluidity to it.
Texas music has suffered over the last several years and in my opinion has become somewhat homogenized. James McMurtry is what Texas Music is supposed to be. Thank you Mr. McMurtry (and Mr. Graham on “Laredo”), for restoring my faith in what once was one of the many things that made Texans unique, their music.
The CD in this package is equally as good, but the visuals will be left to the imagination of the individual listening to the CD. That’s okay though. Insert it in the player, close your eyes and just let your mind go. “Bayou Tortue” and “Just Us Kids” lead the way, followed by “Hurricane Party” are all wonderfully performed as you would expect, as are “You’d A’ Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die)”, “Fraulein O”, “Ruby and Carlos”, “Freeway View”, and finally, “Restless” to rap it all up. The CD runs for nearly Forty-two minutes.
Live in Europe CD/DVD package is due for release on October 13th. Be sure to add it to your audio/video library as soon as it comes out. If I were to use stars to rate performances, this would have 15 stars out of 10. Also, this is the first time a James McMurtry performance has been offered on DVD.
‘Rebel’ Rod says to definitely check this one out!