James McMurtry: The Horses and the Hounds (New West/digital outlets)

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James McMurtry: The Horses and the Hounds (New West/digital outlets)

Elsewhere has had a long affection for this exceptional singer-songwriter since interviewing him in late '89 on the release of his debut album Too Long in the Wasteland.

I'd been immediately impressed by his dark, literary songs (the son of Larry) and leaving a Christmas function after exactly the right number of drinks for the phone interview I found him chatty, serious with a dry humour and stories to tell.

Many years later when in Austin we noted that he was playing the Continental Club (a Tuesday night if we recall) and so went along expecting the place to be packed to see a man we considered a household name.

He was there with his band – the opening act was John Doe with his band – and we thought we'd died and gone to country-rock heaven.

And the other 30 or so people there seemed to enjoy it too.

(On the same trip I saw Jimmie Dale Gilmore play a similarly small show at the university, stop halfway through and say that this was the first time he'd play this venue since he was last here with Townes who had died recently. He abandoned his setlist and played Townes' songs and deeply personal stuff.)

This is only to say it is hard for Elsewhere to be usefully critical about people like McMurtry, Joe Ely, Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Ray LaMontagne, the late Chris Whitley, Tom Russell and many other hard-bitten and sometimes slightly macho writers who bring story-telling to their Texas-framed country-rock sound.

Many of these characters can be an acquired taste because of that, and here McMurtry once again delivers his tales – shot through with reality-drawn images – in his tough style.

Here are memories of losses, soldiers in those sand-blown war zones where the television cameras don't go, those just making do or on the wrong side of the law, skewering of America's bropken politics and social structures . . .

All those who have been waiting seven years for a new James McMurtry album just need to know one thing: here it is.

At last.

.

You can hear this album on Spotify here


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