Showing posts with label James McMurtry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label James McMurtry. Show all posts

Dec 30, 2015

Farce the Music's Top 13 Albums of 2015

For the first time, our best albums list is a composite voted on by Trailer and FTM's 4 most frequent contributors (Kelcy Salisbury, Kevin Broughton, Jeremy Harris, and Matthew Martin) along with a tiebreaker vote from Trailer's concert buddy/friend with good taste in music, Chad. We hope this will add validity and weight to the results. It was another great year for music, as you'll see clearly below. 



11. (Tie) Jason Boland and the Stragglers - Squelch
Boland & a slightly reworked Stragglers lineup provide proof that country music can evolve without sacrificing its identity. Not many artists are turning out this kind of work nearly two decades into their career, but the proof is in the pudding as The Stragglers have put out a rollicking rock-tinged album with a subversive, punk rock type aesthetic throughout. If you like smart, socially conscious lyrics with a bite, this is the country album for you. -Kelcy



11. (Tie) William Clark Green - Ringling Road
It may head towards the pop country direction a few times. I don’t care. It may contain a few songs that are catchy but don’t contain much substance. I don’t care. It may be from someone that a lot of you had never heard of. I don’t care. I chose this as my top album because it’s my top album. How can you argue with that logic? I don’t know or care. All I know is this is by far my favorite album of this year and it wasn’t even something that required much thought. -Jeremy



11. (Tie) Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
Indie-pop is a sub-genre I usually avoid due to the twee nature of its typical fare. Father John Misty doesn't do twee. He infuses his catchy pop tunes and lounge rollers with a strong dose of balls. His lyrics are clever, biting, and frequently downright asshole-ish. These songs comfort, provoke, enlighten, and annoy, often at the same time. Our narrator is a jerk, but a jerk that you have to stick around to see what he'll do or say next. This is a record that will gnaw at you and stick with you, each song taking its turn being an earworm or soundtrack to some odd moment. -Trailer



10. Jonathan Tyler - Holy Smokes
It’s astounding when you realize all the things this guy has accomplished by his 30th year. Out of a contract with the suits at Atlantic Records, Tyler combines songwriting chops and a top-flight vocal range to express his newfound independence in impressive fashion. Expect more great things from this prodigy. -Kevin



9. John Moreland - High on Tulsa Heat
It's not an album you may want to listen to over and over because it's so heavy. But, whether you want to or not, you'll be compelled to continue to listen. It's catchy. It's a bummer. But John Moreland sings with the conviction of a man who has no choice but tell you about the pains of life. Moreland's voice is so powerful and strong. If you don't own this album, stop everything you're doing and get this album. Listen to it. Then, listen to it again regardless of your gut feeling. This album will hit you, and hit you hard. By the time you get to "Cherokee" on the last half of the album, you'll realize how special Moreland, and this album, is. -Matthew



8. Ray Wylie Hubbard - The Ruffian's Misfortune
The Wylie Lama has released his best album in years, and we are lucky enough to witness it. "Stone Blind Horses" is as good a lyric as anything released all year, "Bad On Fords" is about as much fun as anything Hubbard has ever put out, the whole vibe is great & the results are fantastic. -Kelcy

This seasoned, wry songwriter really can’t make a bad record. “Chick singer, Badass Rocking” has the kind of driving, tribal feel as a RWH standard, “Snake Farm.” And the record closes with “Stone Blind Horses,” which would make my top 5 list of singles from 2015. -Kevin



7. The Yawpers - American Man
If this were a list of the top rock albums, Nate Cook and his band would be at the summit. The songs confront a range of social/societal issues head on, but what blows you away is how much sound the Yawpers get from two acoustics and a drum kit. Buckle up; this one gets you by the throat. -Kevin

Rock & Roll isn't dead, you just can't see it from the highway or hear it on corporate radio, but there are still some bands keeping it alive. This album is at once sprawling, messy, smart, cynical, homesick & rebellious. It's a good thing. -Kelcy



6. American Aquarium - Wolves
To say the musical arrangements are daring & a departure from past albums is true. Yes, the same basic structure is there, the skeleton is intact enough to keep the loyal fans sated. But BJ Barham & the boys take risks here. The lush "Man I'm Supposed To Be" could be something Chet Atkins produced, but the darkness that lurks in this most honest of love songs somehow makes the song even more powerful. -Kelcy



5. Whitey Morgan - Sonic Ranch
How does an album with a bunch of covers make a year end list? By making you forget they’re cover songs. Whitey hits a home-run with this one and his vocals should’ve made this album more talked about than it already was in 2015. -Jeremy

As strong a "real country album" as you'll hear in 2015. It's refreshing to hear such unfiltered honky-tonk music in this day and age of contrived edge and softened edges. Morgan and the 78s' version of modern outlaw country is a comparable sound to what Sturgill Simpson is doing, but with a blue collar approach and a more pronounced low-end. This album may not drive Morgan to acceptance/hype in the same circles as Jason Isbell and Sturgill, but it's a big statement album that will bring in new fans and make old ones very happy. -Trailer



4. Chris Stapleton - Traveller
Chris Stapleton has been around the scene for a long time and I think many folks have had 
a feeling that one day he'd get the recognition due him. I'm glad that day has come, and this 
album is completely worthy of all the praise it has garnered. Stapleton's voice is as strong as 
ever and the songs are perfect showcases for his style. The slower, sadder tunes on the 
album are the real highlights though and the song "Fire Away" is far and away my favorite 
track on the album. -Matthew



3. Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free
The only thing keeping this one out of my top spot is the fact that it was just a year since his last tour-de-force, Southeastern.  As I wrote here, this record lets your emotions off the mat a little bit, and allows you to breathe. I think it’s his best to date, but the dude keeps raising the bar. -Kevin



2. James McMurtry - Complicated Game
The first studio album in six years from the dean of Texas songwriting. McMurtry turns a phrase better than most, and injects an extraordinary pathos into his everyman characters. He didn’t miss a beat during the half-dozen year delay, and this one is well worth the wait. -Kevin

I'm not sure there is anyone out there today who can write songs about everyday scenarios as perfectly as James McMurtry. On his latest effort, McMurtry strips down his songs to their basics and lets the focus be on the stories within each song. The incredibly heartbreaking song "You Got To Me" will leave you missing something- whether that be home, a past relationship, or just earlier years will be up to you. The song and the album stuck with me for weeks after listening to it. -Matthew



1. Turnpike Troubadours - Turnpike Troubadours
On this record, the Troubadours let a little color and light in, and it's just enough to fully realize the absurd potential of this group. There's space, separation, and vividness in the sound. The slower songs soar, the rockers punch, and there's fiddle and steel galore. On a good set of speakers, this thing is stunning. Their writing was already excellent, but they've even upped their game in that department. "The Bird Hunters" tells the tale of a man coming to terms with an ended relationship over the course of a quail hunt. This could come across as hokey or forced in the hands of a lesser act. The Troubadours make it a song-of-the-year candidate, epic, cinematic, and immersive. -Trailer

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Other popular selections:
The Pollies - Not Here
Lindi Ortega - Faded Gloryville
Baroness - Purple
Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material
Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen - Hold My Beer
Allison Moorer - Down to Believing
Lucero - All a Man Should Do
Courtney Patton - So This is Life
Benton Leachman - Bury the Hatchet
Ashley Monroe - The Blade
The Honeycutters - Me Oh My
The Deslondes - s/t
Eric Church - Mr. Misunderstood
Will Hoge - Small Town Dreams

Oct 12, 2015

Top 30 Albums of 2015: 3/4 Report



Here's my 3/4 of 2015 Favorite Albums list. I'm going to attempt to do a composite among FTM's regular contributors (Matthew, Kelcy, Jeremy, Kevin, and myself) and hopefully have our first team-voted official list (at least a top 10) at the end of December, so this is just a 20% slice here. -Trailer

1. Father John Misty - I Love You Honeybear

2. Chris Stapleton - Traveller

2. Whitey Morgan - Sonic Ranch

4. Turnpike Troubadours - s/t

5. Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free

6. The Honeycutters - Me Oh My

7. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen - Hold My Beer, Vol. 1

8. James McMurtry - Complicated Game

9. American Aquarium - Wolves

10. Ray Wylie Hubbard - The Ruffian's Misfortune

11. Jonathan Tyler - Holy Smokes

12. J.D. McPherson - Let the Good Times Roll

13. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly

14. Ashley Monroe - The Blade

15. The Pollies - Not Here

16. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats - s/t

17. Jamie Lin Wilson - Holidays & Wedding Rings

18. The Damn Quails - Out of the Birdcage

19. Anderson East - Delilah

20. Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material

21. Faith No More - Sol Invictus

22. Lindi Ortega - Faded Gloryville

23. John Moreland - High on Tulsa Heat

24. Lucero - All a Man Should Do

25. Benton Leachman - Bury the Hatchet

26. Wrinkle Neck Mules - I Never Thought It Would Go This Far

27. Clutch - Psychic Warfare

28. Darrell Scott - Ten

29. The Deslondes - s/t

30. Dwight Yoakam - Second Hand Heart



I haven't heard these enough yet to rank them: Jason Boland and the Stragglers - Squelch, Hailey Whitters - Black Sheep, The Yawpers - American Man, Corb Lund - Things That Can't Be Undone, Don Henley - Cass County, Gretchen Peters - Blackbirds.

Jul 1, 2015

Top 20 Albums of 2015: First Half Report

 1. Whitey Morgan - Sonic Ranch
Sonic Ranch is as strong a "real country album" as you'll hear in 2015. It's refreshing to hear such unfiltered honky-tonk music in this day and age of contrived edge and softened edges. Morgan and the 78s' version of modern outlaw country is a comparable sound to what Sturgill Simpson is doing, but with a blue collar approach and a more pronounced low-end. This album may not drive Morgan to acceptance/hype in the same circles as Jason Isbell and Sturgill, but it's a big statement album that will bring in new fans and make old ones very happy.


2. Father John Misty - I Love You Honeybear
Indie-pop is a sub-genre I usually avoid due to the overly precious nature of its typical fare. Father John Misty doesn't do twee. He infuses his catchy pop tunes and lounge rollers with a strong dose of balls. His lyrics are clever, biting, and frequently downright asshole-ish. These songs comfort, provoke, enlighten, and annoy, often at the same time. Our narrator is a jerk, but a jerk that you have to stick around to see what he'll do or say next. This is a record that will gnaw at you and stick with you, each song taking its turn being an earworm or soundtrack to some odd moment.


3. Chris Stapleton - Traveller



5. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen - Hold My Beer, Vol. 1
Hold My Beer, Vol. 1 sounds as much like a celebration of friendship as it does a duets album from the pair of popular Texas troubadours. There's a palpable sense of fun and camaraderie throughout the ten song collection.  It’s the soundtrack to a good Saturday afternoon barbecue, a party record for people who'd rather not fist-pump, a greatest hits collection of songs you haven’t heard yet (unless you've been to their summer tours of the same name as the album).



7. American Aquarium - Wolves
To say the musical arrangements are daring & a departure from past albums is true. Yes, the same basic structure is there, the skeleton is intact enough to keep the loyal fans sated. But BJ Barham & the boys take risks here. The lush "Man I'm Supposed To Be" could be something Chet Atkins produced, but the darkness that lurks in this most honest of love songs somehow makes the song even more powerful. -Kelcy Salisbury


8. James McMurtry - Complicated Game
This is McMurtry’s best record, and it ain’t close. And that was a high bar. He could put his pen and guitar down now, and his name will forever belong beside those of Lovett, Clark, Earle, and yes, Van Zandt. If you know those names, you know what the comparison implies.  If you don’t, listen to Complicated Game, and get a frame of reference. This one’s a crowning moment for one of the true and elite Texas craftsmen. -Kevin Broughton


 



11. Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material

14. Wrinkle Neck Mules - I Never Thought It Would Go This Far
Maybe this fine album isn't to be analyzed. Find your own meaning in these literate, attitude-driven, poetic, anti-bucolic, abstruse (and surprisingly fun) lyrics and run with it. It's not like you're going to stop tapping your foot, either way. It's all too damn catchy; and so steeped in shine and cooked over some ridge dweller's firepit, I Never Thought It Would Go This Far can't help but captivate.


18. Benton Leachman - Bury the Hatchet
Benton Leachman has a reedy croon that gives off the impression of innocence or sweetness. While that may indeed be the case for Leachman personally, his debut album, Bury the Hatchet, presents several bits of evidence that are at odds with that starry-eyed delivery. He's clearly a complicated and real person, and this record shows you all his sides with a passionate honesty that's rare in first releases.


 

Apr 1, 2015

Best Albums of 2015 So Far: 1st Quarter Report

My actual "Best of 2015" list includes four albums not yet released, but since this is labeled as the "1st Quarter Report," I decided to stay true to the title and not include those four. However, you should know that my favorite album I've heard this year is actually Whitey Morgan's Sonic Ranch ...and by a long shot. It comes out in May. But here's the list of my favorite albums released thus far in 2015.



10. Butch Walker - Afraid of Ghosts

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12. Earl Sweatshirt - I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside

13. Houndmouth - Little Neon Limelight

14. The Delta Routine - You and Your Lion

15. The Lone Bellow - Then Came the Morning

16. The Mavericks - Mono

17. Aaron Watson - The Underdog

18. Ryan Bingham - Fear and Saturday Night

19. Striking Matches - Nothing But the Silence

20. Gurf Morlix - Eatin' at Me

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Yet to hear or need to hear more of: Gretchen Peters - Blackbirds, Jackson Taylor - Cantina del Diablo, Haley Cole - Illusions, Great Lake Swimmers - A Forest of Arms, Joe Pug - Windfall, Willie & the Giant - s/t, JJ Grey & Mofro - Ol' Glory, Brandi Carlile - The Firewatcher's Daughter, No Dry County - The Night Before, Cody Jinks - Adobe Sessions.

Mar 2, 2015

James McMurtry Performs "Copper Canteen"

From his new album Complicated Game (reviewed this morning).


Album Review: James McMurtry - Complicated Game

WORTH THE WAIT

By Kevin Broughton

“Honey, don’t you be yellin’ at me when
I’m cleanin’ my gun,
I’ll wash the blood off the tailgate
when deer season’s done.
We got one more weekend to go,
And I’d like to kill one more doe.”

[Note: It’s come to the author’s attention that a goodly number of FTM readers are consumers of mainstream “country” music. The couplets above are the opening lines of James McMurtry’s Complicated Game. On paper, it’s as “bro-country” as you can get, right? But he ain’t pretty, and he don’t shake his ass. Here’s your chance to learn something.]

James McMurtry hasn’t made a studio album in six years. And a quarter-century after Lonesome Dove author Larry’s son hung out his Texas songwriter’s shingle with Too Long in the Wasteland, he may have come full-circle. There are some constants, at least.

Wry humor. Desperation. Anger, sometimes the fist-shaking, political kind. Characters on the margins, and love just out of reach. These are what McMurtry fans have come to expect. But it’s always poignant. Funny or sad, you’re getting touched in the stomach. The new one turns it up a notch, and sets a new standard.

Complicated Game, on a label that bears the same name, is a stripped-down departure from Childish Things  and a slew of records on the Sugar Hill label. McMurtry came into his own in the 2000s, combining sharp – and often overtly political – lyrics with top-flight rock musicianship and arrangements.

This time, there’s arrangement-muscle in only a couple of cuts. “Deaver’s Crossing” and “How’m I Gonna Find You Now” (the latter a happy little speed-freak/stalker tune) are the only songs where discerning McMurtry fans will recognize the layering he’s subtly made his recent trademark. “How’m I Gonna Find You” is reminiscent of his frenetic, borderline hip-hop rants “Choctaw Bingo” and “Airline Agent;” just a little more desperate and a tad more funny.




But it’s the longing that sets this album apart. Longing for a different, better time, or a just-missed love. The comfortable love that peppers a couple songs is still looking for a little something better, whether it’s one more doe or a way to cash out before the Wal-Mart’s built.

Oh, there’s wisdom and reflection in every cut. The kind that makes you nod, smile and say, “Fuck. Of course. This.” There’s a trio of love songs that tie the thing together, though.

“Copper Canteen” opens the record, and we’re left with a good sense of middle-aged contentment. As borderline-rough as things might be, they’ll still be okay. And hell yes, I’ll wash the blood off the tailgate. (I imagine I’d have said that more than once, had I ever been married. ‘Nuff said.)

“These Things I’ve Come to Know” is the most romantic cut on the record, and with the most common touch. Who among us doesn’t know a hot-mess bartender who somehow keeps it together? And who among us hasn’t had that crush from a familiar barstool. You just…know. (Author’s speculation: She’s the same gal who said “Sit your drunk ass down" in another song.)

Any displaced Southerners among us who envisioned different lives for ourselves, long before we became middle aged? “Long Island Sound” will induce tears for a while. And it’ll be a while before you realize why…if you listen.

Which brings us back to you, Mainstream Country Fan. Do you have the stones to be emotionally challenged? Can you shake off the visual template of Nashville, long enough to listen in a discerning way?

This is McMurtry’s best record, and it ain’t close. And that was a high bar. He could put his pen and guitar down now, and his name will forever belong beside those of Lovett, Clark, Earle, and yes, Van Zandt. If you know those names, you know what the comparison implies.

If you don’t, listen to Complicated Game, and get a frame of reference. This one’s a crowning moment for one of the true and elite Texas craftsmen.

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Complicated Game is available at iTunes, Amazon, Lone Star Music, and all the usual spots (but probably not Wal-mart).

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