These songs write movies in my head – James McMurtry at The Cluny

After my brief review of James McMurtry’s new album here (I’d have written a  longer review if I’d waited a few days – the songs really got in my head and I have listened to it many times over) I managed to get added to the guest list (thanks, Katie!) for James’ show at The Cluny on October 11th. I arrived early, as I usually do and spent some time chatting to last minute support act Gypsy Dave Smith, a blues player of some local renown. We reminisced about seeing Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett at the Cluny late last year (Gypsy Dave was the support for the Little Feat guitarists duo on that UK tour).
I went in with Dave and fairly soon the doors opened. I would say The Cluny was about three quarters full, some folks obviously big fans of James McMurtry’s, others perhaps who were there out of interest. Gypsy Dave opened with a competent and authentic set of blues based songs – his dobro style guitar sounded very good with nice slide work too.

After a short break James McMurtry and The Heartless Bastards band took to the stage without introduction and kicked off with their usual set opener Bayou Tortue. The band were really tight and more people moved to the front of the stage to get a closer look and try and catch a rare smile from James.

We were treated to most of the material from “Just Us Kids” and of course most of the songs played feature on the new release “Live in Europe”. Highlights for me were “Just Us Kids”, “Hurricane Party”, “Choctaw Bingo”, the very moving solo performance of “Ruby and Carlos” “Freeway View”, “Firelight Road” and “Lights of Cheyenne”. The band were really tight, and James used an interesting combination of guitars and tunings. The musicianship was stepped up a notch when soundman Tim Holt strapped on his guitar for the second half of the set adding some tasteful solos to the songs.

Although there was little interaction between the audience and the band other than the plentiful applause after each song (a friend of mine left the gig at York on the previous night because he didn’t feel that James was giving as much as he should), I would say that those that were present had a good time – I certainly did – I’d been listening to the “Live in “Europe” album almost non-stop for the week before the gig so most of the tunes were embedded in my brain and it was a pleasure to see and hear them played live, with James obviously deeply into the stories in the songs. After the show James came out and met with a few fans who wanted to chat and get a few things signed. I met him briefly and congratulated him on the show.

I am now a confirmed McMurtry fan and went off in search of back catalogue CDs at amazon – there’s a few on their way to me. I’d certainly go and see him again and would recommend that anybody who likes great songs performed very well should check him out – either on CD or on his next UK tour.

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5 responses to “These songs write movies in my head – James McMurtry at The Cluny

  1. This guy is an American national treasure, but most folks have never heard him or heard of him… shame. It's true, when he sings those words, I see pictures as clear as my own memories.

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