James McMurtry spins stories with a poet’s pen (“Long Island Sound”) and a painter’s precision (“She Loves Me”).
For nearly two decades and more than a dozen studio albums — from Doin' Fine (1989) through the new Flower Box — the connection has resonated deeply with fans. Credit Osborne's spiritual approach to songwriting. “Peace is light from darkness,” he said about his 2013 standout Peace. “The songs are written from the outside looking in. They are not making any judgments. I'm just stating facts. I'm writing from a brighter perspective. There's less dusk and dark and much more sunlight. The driving tones and sounds are free and natural.”
At the same time, McMurtry's vibrant vignettes have turned heads for a quarter century now. “James McMurtry is one of my very few favorite songwriters on Earth and these days he's working at the top of his game,” says Americana all-star Jason Isbell. “He has that rare gift of being able to make a listener laugh out loud at one line and choke up at the next. I don't think anybody writes better lyrics.” “Yes. Spin “South Dakota.” You'll hear. “They took their time with this one,” Texas Music magazine notes, “and it was well worth it. He's always been wise beyond his age, but middle age suits him well.”
The poignant lyrics of his immense catalog still ring true today. In 2011, “We Can’t Make It Here” was cited among The Nation’s “Best Protest Songs Ever.” “‘We Can’t Make It Here,’” Bob Lefsetz wrote, “has stood the test of time because of its unmitigated truth.”
McMurtry tours year round and consistently throws down unparalleled powerhouse performances. The Washington Post notes: “Much attention is paid to James McMurtry’s lyrics and rightfully so: He creates a novel’s worth of emotion and experience in four minutes of blisteringly stark couplets. What gets overlooked, however, is that he’s an accomplished rock guitar player ... serious stuff, imparted by a singularly serious band.”
Longtime fans know the artist’s vibrant vignettes have turned heads for a quarter century now. “James McMurtry is one of my very few favorite songwriters on Earth and these days he’s working at the top of his game,” says Americana all-star Jason Isbell. “He has that rare gift of being able to make a listener laugh out loud at one line and choke up at the next. I don’t think anybody writes better lyrics.”