"You keep talkin' that shit like I never heard, hush little president, don't say a word": James McMurtry has never been accused of being Mr. Happy Guy, but it seems that as the Bush administration has worn on, McMurtry's poetic surliness has increased. His free download of 2004's "Can't Make It Here Anymore" was a bull's-eye predictor of mounting public dissatisfaction that has resulted in Nixonian poll numbers for President W.
McMurtry may well be the most political writer on the Texas music scene; he's certainly the most incisive. His 2008 release Just Us Kids is filled with pointed jabs like "Cheney's Toy" (guess who that's about) and the most brilliant and surreal anti-Iraq War anthem yet, "God Bless America (Pat MacDonald Must Die)": "Look yonder mercy me, three wise men in an SUV, corporate logo on the side, air-conditioned quiet ride, that thing don't run on French fry grease, that thing don't run on love and peace."
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At the same time, McMurtry continues to come up with interesting slice-of-life vignettes like "You'd a' Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die)" that take a scalpel and slash around in the innards of relationships more Jerry Springer than Oprah. On swampy rockers like "Turtle Bayou," McMurtry connects once again with the violent underbelly of life out in the rural margins, where law enforcement is thin and outlaws are just the lay of the land. "Just Us Kids" connects with another longtime McMurtry theme, small-town boredom and ennui. Bring earplugs, because McMurtry is one of the loudest acts around — in fact, last time I sat in my car across the street and heard the show just fine.