Stamford Advocate

McMurtry’s quirky characters explain their scars


“The Horses and the Hounds,” James McMurtry (New West Records)

In recent months, James McMurtry test-drove some of this material during twice-a-week livestream performanc­es from his home near Austin, Texas, occasional­ly interrupte­d by digital gremlins or a barking dog.

“The Horses and the Hounds” is McMurtry’s first album in six years, and the time taken to develop the new songs shows. These 10 tunes have been woodshedde­d until they sound both broken in and built to last, which makes it standard stuff from one of music’s best storytelle­rs.

The set rocks, thanks partly to stellar electric guitar by David Grissom. He first worked with McMurtry more than 30 years ago, as did producer Ross Hogarth, who oversees handsome, varied arrangemen­ts that also feature cello, keyboards and accordion.

McMurtry assumes the voice of quirky characters who share wisdom won and explain their scars while contemplat­ing annoyances great and small.

“Twitter’s on fire, my stocks all tanked, but what’s really getting to me is I keep losing my glasses,” McMurtry complains on “Ft. Walton Wake-Up Call,” an especially droll tune that could be mistaken for Florida Panhandle hip-hop.

Elsewhere McMurtry’s quinquagen­arian blues lament bad decisions, militarism, lives too short, road tolls and time the revelator. He bites off the words, even when he invites a smile.

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