Tag Archives: James McMurtry

Dave

Ever flip channels and stop on a movie you’ve seen a few times, but you settle in to watch it anyway? Of course you have. And when it’s heavily does with commercials, and you’re thinking “I have that DVD” but you sit there anyway? Okay…maybe that’s just lazy…but that must be one good movie. Usually it’s a broad comedy I can quote line for line, like Caddyshack or Major League or Animal House. It usually isn’t a plot-driven movie.

But tonight that happened to me with Dave. Again.

The plot, simple but brilliant – a corrupt administration finds a look-alike to double for a critically ill President so they can continue their illegal agenda. Kevin Kline as the titular character is the head of a temp agency, a nice guy who puts others before him and a dead ringer for the incapacitated President. At first agreeable to follow orders, he soon sees both the diseased plans of the ambitious Chief Of Staff (Frank Langella, great as always) but also the opportunity to do something for the right reasons.

Director Ivan Reitman had stumbled badly after a winning trifecta (Meatballs/Stripes/Ghostbusters), but this film resurrected his credibility. The cast is uniformly brilliant, with Sigourney Weaver, Ving Rhames and Kevin Dunn providing excellent support. Don’t even get me started on the brilliance of Kline, surely one of the most underrated actors of his generation. Great cameo roles for Bonnie Hunt and Laura Linney. And a Charles Grodin sighting? That’s bonus points, son. And kudos to Gary Ross, who also scripted other movies with big heart like Big and Pleasantville.

The only sad thing about Dave is that it makes me wish our leaders had those same unselfish, uncorrupted qualities. Much like Dennis Haysbert’s performance as President Palmer on the early episodes of 24, I came away wishing that just this once, fantasy could be reality. But they don’t, and it’s not.

But there I go again, talking about the deeper meaning of a film that is ultimately a redemption story about second chances and good triumphing over evil. Sometimes, even in the guise of light comedy, deeper points can be made. And when flipping channels on a Monday night, sometimes a well made movie can be appreciated for being  just that.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Free Digital Samplers

They say you can’t get something for nothing. Wrong

Having grown up on 45 singles and gatefold albums, I’m still a tactile music lover. I’m being dragged kicking and screaming into the digital distribution world, even though I realize that it’s more convenient and less expensive. Can’t help it. Old habits die hard.

So since I’m not constantly surfing iTunes and Rhapsody and other music services, I sometimes miss out on titles that come out exclusively for the digital market, be they music or comedy. Hell, it’s hard enough to keep track of everything and I’m proactively looking…I can imagine how hard it is to find everything passively. And record companies – small and big – realize this also.

There’s nothing new about samplers, but pressing and distributing vinyl and CD platters cost money and couldn’t be offered for free in large quantities. Warner Brothers used to sell them for two dollars through the mail, which probably was a break-even point for them, although it wasn’t that much cheaper than a normal retail priced album at the time. When CDs became deceptively cheap, the market was flooded with indie samplers, although most would up in dollar racks. It would have been nice to try to discover new bands, but with the plethora of CDs in the store, who had the time and the money to experiment?

So here’s one thing digital got right – free albums, a click away from wherever you happen to be. The purpose is the same – hear some new bands, hopefully find someone you like, become a fan and buy their product. It’s the try-before-you-buy policy that is the new paradigm for a fractured industry. I’ve stumbled across several by pure happenstance; I’m sure you’ll find tons of others. Many bands are happy to give their albums away hoping you will come out to the show and support them on tour.

So here are Ten Free Digital Samplers that I found worthwhile; no-risk free records for the taking. Imagine – a money back guarantee!

01) Ike Reilly digital sampler – one of the best songwriters around and a dynamic performer, a cutting edge Dylan-influenced poet. I’ve got his whole catalogue and if you don’t know him, trust me, you will love this guy.

02) Americana Music Awards Sampler – featuring cuts from John Hiatt, Buddy and Julie Miller, Steve Earle and James McMurtry to draw you in, you’ll come away as fans of Jason Isbell and The Avett Brothers.

03) Wicked Cool Coming Attractions – A great sampler from Little Steven’s label (and Underground Garage playlist) including The Chesterfield Kings, The Breakers, The Cocktail Slippers and contenders for 2010’s best album, The Len Price 3.

04) Merge Records 2010 Sampler – Indie wonderland, featuring Destroyer, She and Him, Clean, The Clientele and The Shout Out Louds.

05) Alive Records 2009 Sampler – Not dated in any way, this runs the gamut from re-released gems from The Nerves to great cuts from The Buffalo Killers, Left Lane Cruiser and Outrageous Cherry.

06) ROIR: So Indie It Hurts Jackpot! New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, Suicide, The Mekons, The Fleshtones, James Chance and the Contortions…NYC punk bonanza!

07) Ryko: Flash of Light – Worth it for the acoustic Gary Louris tune alone, but this is filled with great singer-songwriters like Will Hoge and Justin Currie (from Del Amitri).

08) Barsuk Records 2009 Sampler – OK, so I wish that Nada Surf was on here, but otherwise this is a killer collection featuring Death Cab For Cutie, Menomena and Ra Ra Riot.

09) CMJ 2009 Sampler – I imagine there will be a 2010 version floating around soon, but this is stuffed with lesser known bands so what difference does a year make? I already liked  The Black Hollies and The High Strung and came away discovering The Generationals and The Bloodsugars.

10) Best of Yep Roc Singles – This is an absolute steal. When you’re one of the best labels of the past twenty years, of course your roster boasts Nick Lowe, Todd Snider, Dave Alvin, The Apples In Stereo and Reverend Horton Heat.

And what the hell – it’s free one from Sub Pop containing Blitzen Trapper, Wolf Parade, Beach House…even a clip from comedian David Cross!

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Texas Revolution, James McMurtry

We all wanna change the world

Today marks the anniversary of the Texas Revolution; on this day in 1836 the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed and the Republic of Texas was declared. Hard to think about the history of Texas without mentioning Larry McMurtry, who has used Texas for the setting of so many famous novels and screenplays  like The Last Picture Show and Lonesome Dove. But when a music fan is asked to name Larry’s single greatest gift to the world, the obvious answer is his son, James.

(Yep, that’s how my mind works when the coffee hasn’t quite kicked in.)

Like his father, James McMurtry is a great storyteller. His characters are fully realized, and his stories are rich with passion and heart, where the listener or reader can immediately succumb to the storyline, the aura and the moral pulse of the journey. These are tales of desperation and joy and failure and broken promises and faith, people on a journey who might be forging through a tough time or reminiscing about a lost opportunity.

The magic is that no matter how different our lives might be, we are drawn in honestly and not through contrivance. Once there, we are immersed in that story from the inside, seeing the world through a different viewpoint. Sadly, when artists are able to do this so well and so often we take them for granted. James McMurtry is far from a household name; criminally underappreciated in the big scheme of things.

His recent live album is yet another document in a brilliant career, and for the first time there is authorized video of a McMurtry concert. I highly recommend the CD/DVD package Live In Europe

Use whatever terminology you wish for his artistry, be it rebel Americana, spirited counterculture rock, or literate character-driven storytelling of the highest order. There are songwriters and there are storytellers, and then there are those few that consistently excel in both areas. He might be genetically driven to superior wordplay thanks to his famous author father and English teacher mother, but that six-string wrangling you hear comes only from a lifetime of letting Keith Richards and the like drill through your ears.

McMurtry’s vocal range is fairly limited, and his style is only moderately beyond the spoken word in cadence, but there’s no doubt about the passion behind the words. Few social observations pack the wallop that is “We Can’t Make It Here”, even when performed in countries where it does not apply. “We were hoping we’re not going to need this song much longer”, he says by way of introduction, “For now it stays in the set”.

Read the full review at PopMatters.

Give a listen at Amazon.

McMurtry writes a blog for Blurt called Wasteland Bait and Tackle

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Blast From The Past: Best of British

 

When a musician is in demand as much as Ian “Mac” McLagan, you don’t seek him out as much as you find yourself encountering him at every turn. While viewing the DVD from the recent James McMurtry release, there he was at stage left manning the keyboard and rocking the house in an Amsterdam club. Not a day later while channel-surfing I came across Hal Ashby‘s 1983 film Let’s Spend The Night Together, the documentary capturing the Rolling Stones 1981 tour. Sure enough, there was Mac again, pounding the piano with the same energy and skill he continues to bless us with today. 

In 35 years, McLagan has seen it all—lunatic egos, shape-shifting musical styles, more money than one could count and eras where you couldn’t give a great song away. Yet by all accounts, his survival is as attributable to his amiable nature as it is to his stellar chops. He’s the kind of chap you could imagine sitting at the pub with on a rainy afternoon, pints in hand, sharing a laugh and a tale. 

A decade after writing those words, I got the chance to do just that, twice. Mac is a charming and amiable fellow without a wisp of ego, and having a pint or two while listening to his stories was as much fun as I imagined it would be. And telling him a joke that caused him to double over in laughter is a memory that will forever bring a smile to my face. 

So with that serendipitous chain of events in mind, I pulled out my copy of Best of British and gave it a spin this morning. I also pulled up that old review… 

Ian McLagan’s third solo record has been a long time coming—almost 20 years, to be exact. His previous platters, Troublemaker (1979) and Bump In The Night (1981), are a mixture of rock, boogie-woogie and bluesy soul. I’m happy to say that Best Of British picks up right where he left off, and with timeless music like his, the dates don’t mean a damned thing. 

Read the full Best of British review from PopMatters

Mac’s website 

macspages 

Mac's tales - a brilliant read!

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