Cleveland's Music Headliner

James McMurtry

In James McMurtry’s new effort, The Horses and the Hounds, the acclaimed songwriter backs personal narratives with effortless elegance (“Canola Fields”) and endless energy (“If It Don’t Bleed”). This first collection in seven years, on New West Records, spotlights a seasoned tunesmith in peak form as he turns toward reflection (“Vaquero”) and revelation ( closer “Blackberry Winter”). Familiar foundations guide the journey. “There’s a definite Los Angeles vibe to this record,” McMurtry says. “The ghost of Warren Zevon seems to be stomping around among the guitar tracks. Don’t know how he got in there. He never signed on for work for hire.”

His lauded storytelling — check out songs such as “Operation Never Mind” and “Ft. Walton Wake-Up Call” on The Horse and the Hounds— consistently has turned heads for decades now. “James writes like he’s lived a lifetime,” said John Mellencamp back in 1989, when Too Long in the Wasteland hit the Billboard 200. “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.” McMurtry’s albums Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005) back the claim, each scoring endless critical praise. The former earned McMurtry his highest Billboard 200 chart position in two decades (since eclipsed by Complicated Game) and notched Americana Music Award nominations. Childish Things spent six full weeks topping the Americana Music Radio chart in 2005 and 2006, and won the Americana Music Association’s Album of the Year, with “We Can’t Make It Here” named the organization’s Song of the Year.

Other accolades include a 1996 Grammy nomination for Long Form Music Video for “Where’d You Hide the Body” and an American Indie Award for Best Americana Album for It Had to Happen (1997).