Not That Complicated
James McMurtry has a new album to promote, and Complicated Game is his first studio album since 2008’s, Just Us Kids. As could be expected, his 17-song show at 3rd and Lindsley featured several songs from the new album. Of course, McMurtry has written many great songs in his 25-year recording career, and he managed to offer up a pretty nice sample of some of his best, spanning almost his entire career.
McMurtry was laid back and gently sardonic in his between-song chatter, but the music was sharp and on-point. His experienced band, with which he plays a regular midnight show at the Continental Club in Austin, needed virtually no direction. A lone couple danced on the open space in front of the stage. When they stopped, McMurtry noted the available space and, during the next song, the space became filled with raucous dancing. He then sent the band off and played solo acoustic, which cleared the floor.
There was not a bad moment in the set, though. Highlights included the classic =crowd favorite “Choctaw Bingo,” “No More Buffalo” from his 2006 album It Had to Happen, and “Just Us Kids.” Among the best moments were some of the songs from the new album: “Forgotten Coast,” “Cooper Canteen,” “Ain’t Got a Place,” and the mini-epic about illegal fishing, “Carlisle’s Haul.”
After a powerful performance of “Too Long in the Wasteland” — the title track from his very first album — McMurtry returned alone for a one-song encore of a breathtaking “Lights of Cheyenne,” from his Live in Aught Three album. This provided a definitive closing and proved that sometimes all you need is a song and a 6-string. That is not that complicated, but it does not mean it is easy.
Talented singer-songwriter Max Gomez from Taos, NM, opened the night with an excellent set of original songs and an understated but strong stage presence. He introduced an incredible cover of John Hartford’s song, “In Tall Buildings,” with a great story that helped to underscore the message of the song.