Some songwriters craft tunes with the intent of making social commentary, but rarely do those same songs last through two Presidencies and manage to incite emotion from both sides of the political aisle. Such is the case for James McMurtry, who observes what he sees, but does not claim control of where his songs may go for listeners. “People are listening for themselves in popular songs,” he says, which is why his lyrics speak to human situations that do not neatly fall into “Left” or “Right” boxes. People are much more complicated than that.
Many performers can relate to McMurtry’s years playing Jimmy Buffett cover tunes to placate a bar owner, while slipping in an original song just rarely enough to keep eyebrows from raising. James is not afraid of ruffling feathers, even of his existing fans, as long as the lyric honestly portrays what he sees. From irate email from loyal Texas fans, to adoring crowds in Bangor, Maine, (find out why in the radio show), his music stretches from Southern rock and folk to Americana, incorporating diverse, but dedicated audiences. McMurtry has endured long enough to have multi-generational crowds, where he is the thing that binds parents and children together in music.
For all the weightiness of some of James McMurtry’s songs, he does not describe himself as a “political songwriter.” While he acknowledges how others may categorize him that way based on a small subset of his music, overall, he defines himself more as an observer. McMurtry’s next record is not written yet, but he anticipates his first set of more personal songs, because he has “run out of everything else to write about.”
Songs in Episode 1212 Include:
- 3 from James McMurtry, including one in tribute to Guy Clark
- a song from producer CC Adcock, “All 4 the Betta”
- Lucinda Williams, “Born to Be Loved”
- John Hartford, “Turn Your Radio On” version 2
- Jonny Burke with the Band of Heathens, “Ship Come In”
- One from Episode 1213, Patrick Sweany, “Police Car Blues”