Decades from now, when social anthropologists look back on which musicians most accurately and articulately captured the plight of the dwindling American middle class in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, they'll surely home in on the brilliant Austin songwriter James McMurtry. Rivaled only by Jason Isbell in his ability to construct compelling tales of small-town pathos without sounding patronizing, McMurtry doesn't exploit his characters or paint them in overly dour strokes; even his meth-heads have a good time here and there.
But off-the-grid life isn't an excuse for McMurtry to sing about lakefront bonfires and Daisy Dukes. Such backwoods blowouts are the stuff of Music Row fiction, filled with trucks, cans (both containing beer and affixed to chests) and one-night stands. Yet for as flawed as the protagonists in his songs can be, you'd still much rather spend time with them than the buff bros and babes by the beach.