Tag Archives: Texas

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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Remembering Ronnie Lane – The April Fool

IT’S NO JOKE Ronnie Lane, one of the original Small Faces, the heart and soul of The Faces and the pioneering troubadour of Slim Chance, was born on April 1st.  God bless ya, Ronnie…you are sorely missed.

My Mum, she likes you, she thinks you're swell...

My Mum, she likes you, she thinks you're swell...

 If you want to know how it all began, you have to start at the beginning, and why not hear it from the band in their own words? Check out this audio history of The Small Faces – a real treat. Room for Ravers also has a lengthy written history about their origins.  Of course I highly recommend All The Rage, Ian McLagan’s own book and one of the best rock bios ever written. It’s as close to sitting in the pub sharing a pint as you will ever get, an absolute must-read for any fan of the era.

If you’re not familiar with the Small Faces catalogue, you’ll be fascinated by (1) just how much great music they made in such a short time, and (2) how incredible it is that they did not dominate the American pop scene of the late 1960s. See what crooked management will get you? Please beware when looking for product – most of the seemingly endless greatest hits titles are pirated copies of their work (as in the band sees not a penny). Do the right thing and only purchase the album versions vouched for by the band. Kenney Jones and Mac have worked long and hard to rectify the situation after decades of being robbed blind.

The Faces years were wild and woolly and wonderful, and as much as I loved the drunken recklessness of “Borstal Boys” and “Stay With Me”, the three songs that reverberate above all others were Lane tunes. “Debris”is simply one of the most beautiful songs ever written, a winsome look back at his relationship with his Dad, but a poignant sadness that could apply to anybody’s broken relationship. And was there a better song about looking back, older but wiser, than “Ooh La La“? But for pure rowdy fun, none are better than “You’re So Rude”, about an aborted attempt to get a little while the folks are out. If you don’t own the Faces albums and/or the box set Five Guys Walk Into A Bar, you have a huge gap in your record library. (And yes, I will be posting a full length essay on The Faces in the near future)

My Pop Culture Press compadre Kent Benjamin has written some great features about Lane and McLagan over the years, and as a fellow Austinite, he is well-versed in their post-Faces lore. Back in 2000 he posted his liner notes to a Lane project on Perfect Sound Forever about how Ronnie moved to Austin, Texas in the hope that the weather would alleviate his suffering and permit him to continue to perform music at his self-imposed high standards. But the project that will stand tall above all others was the DVD of The Passing Show, a wonderful documentary about the life and music of Ronnie Lane that beautifully captures the heart and soul of the man.

This film will make you laugh and will break your heart

This film will make you laugh and will break your heart

In 2006, on what would have been Ronnie’s 60th birthday, his bandmate and lifelong friend Ian McLagan released Spiritual Boy, a collection of Lane songs lovingly performed by Ian and the Bump Band.  I just saw Mac and band play a month ago, and I can vouch for the fact that Ronnie Lane is there in spirit, every night, all night.

And as for me…Ronnie Lane’s music will be on my playlist until I ditch this mortal coil. Cheers, mate!

“Thank you kindly/for thinking of me/If I’m not smiling…I’m just thinking…”

april-fool

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