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‘It’s hard to emerge from the shadow of a successful parent in any walk of life, and it seems to me particularly hard in the arts,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Larry McMurtry once observed. “Those who are wise, I think, generally don’t stay in the same art.”

James McMurtry is a case in point. His father’s name still turns up in profiles, interviews and show previews, but James is much more often compared to celebrated singer-songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Warren Zevon, Guy Clark, John Mellencamp, and even Lou Reed. 

While the Texas-born musician did stray from his father’s career path, he still managed to take with him a gift for storytelling, one that’s earned a loyal fanbase with songs that are by turns sardonic, poignant and, often as not, dead on target. Fan favorites include “We Can’t Make It Here,” “Choctaw Bingo,” “Too Long in the Wasteland” and “God Bless America (Pat Macdonald Must Die),” a title that references the leader of Timbuk 3 for no apparent reason other than that he played on the track. (Sample lyrics: “We’ll suck it all up through the barrel of a gun / Every day’s the end of days for some / Republicans don’t cut and run / Tell me, ain’t you proud of what we’ve done?”)

Last year saw the long-awaited release of the electric-guitar-heavy The Horses and the Hounds, McMurtry’s first album in seven years. Among its standout tracks is “Canola Fields,” which was just nominated for Song of the Year by The Americana Music Association, whose awards ceremony will be held this coming September at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.

Opening for McMurtry on his current tour is fellow Texan Jonny Burke, who, with songs like “I Cut Off My Ankle Monitor to Be Here,” should fit right in.

Music Editor

Bill Forman is the music and film editor of the Colorado Springs Indy, as well as the former editor of Tower Pulse Magazine and news editor for the Sacramento News & Review.