Live at Aught-Three
There are songwriters that make you think, that make you happy, sad, and every emotion in between. Then there’s James McMurtry, who does all of the above with a little bit of that dirty Texas boogie. While I am sure it has been reviewed 10 times from last Thursday, I find myself finding the need to write something about Live at Aught Three just because it twangs so damn hard.
McMurtry and his rhythm section, the aptly titled Heartless Bastards, spin through a collection of 12 of his down-trodden tales of a broken middle class, a lost American Dream, and, of course, the nefarious “North Texas/Southern Oklahoma Crystal Methamphetamine Industry.” He also throws in a killer cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Rex’s Blues” for good measure at the end. Throughout the performance, McMurtry delivers the points of view of his jaded characters with the kind of bite that can only be enhanced by laid-back Texas draw.
So many writers/commentators/opinionators I’ve read spend so much time covering McMurtry’s lyrical imagery that it seems almost over done to simply pontificate about his smart writing. That’s why I think it’s about damn time that his guitar-playing prowess get a change to enjoy the spot light. Throughout the record warm, slightly overdriven, tube twang of his extremely de-tuned axe chugs through the set like a nasty old El Camino engine. The sarcastic sneer of cuts like “60 Acres” is only amplified by the taunting , chunky riffing delivered throughout.
As McMurtry astutely observes in between “Levelland” and “I’m Not From Here”, “an good ol’ by can become an intellectual but an intellectual cannot become a good ol’ boy.” While I know I’m no good ol’ boy (me, about as liberal as they come) and whether or not I am an intellectual is not to be determined by myself, one thing’s for sure, crank the volume and pass a good brew for this one. Glory, glory. Hallelujah.