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James McMurtry
Walk Between the Raindrops,  Sugar Hill CD SHCD-1060, 1998

 Advice from a Texas singer-songwriter

This album of ten songs opens up with the title track, which could’ve come off that huge-selling Dire Straits album. Was it called, "Walk of Life"? Anyway, this song reminds me of "So Far Away From Me." Is that the title of that song? Oh boy, I better start writing things down. Anyway, it features this Zen advice to a son dropping out (of something): "walk between the raindrops, dry as a bone."

If you like crossover. If you like country that’s a lotta bit pop. If you like your rock/pop that’s a lotta bit country. You’re going to stain yourself with this 46 minute epic. The production is first class. The vocals that James kicks out with have that Neil Young edge to them, but this guy can sing.

The interesting thing about this album is that it doesn’t stay put in any one genre. Hard to label. I like variety. "Soda and Salt" comes somewhere in between blues and a hip-hugging line dance. "Fast as I Can" could’ve been written by one of Dylan’s bastard sons.

"Every Little Bit Counts" reminds me of the best songs of the Monkees, with lots of ear-pleasing vocals. No, that doesn’t mean it’s dated. That means it’s tuneful, it has subdued kick, and it’s crafted in Franklin Mint quality.

I have a feeling "Tired of Walking" sums up the personal feelings of McMurtry. Yes, I’m probably completely wrong. But when I hear a semi-blues singer pumping out "I’m tired of walking / I want to ride" it makes me think. And it makes me think of myself. I’m tired of walking in this world too.

But just when you think the man is too _______, here comes "Airline Agent" which gives you a boogie lift with a few laughs, including a chorus of "I gotta go / you gotta get me to the show / quit looking at my hair / just get me in the air" Okay, I don’t know what’s with this guy’s hair, but it sounds good!

Remember that song in the ’80s "If You Leave"? Imagine a countrified version of that, and you’ll get "Comfortable." This is one of the few songs not wholly written by James. There are five names sharing the credit here, and it creates a very unified sound, with the country guitars sliding all around the acoustic rhythms.

If ol’ Hank ever decides to give up his "are you ready for some football?" commercials, I vote James here replaces him. He’s got the attitude, the talent, he’s got the cool hat.– Ben Ohmart

 Glenn Brooks says... McMurtry reminds me of a Texas Lou Reed. He is the son of Larry McMurtry, author of "The Last Picture Show" and "Lonesome Dove," so he comes by both his writing and his Texas style naturally.


James McMurtry, vocals, non-slide-type guitars; Ronnie Johnson, harmonies, bass; Lisa Mednick, keyboards; Chris Searles, drums.

song titles

Walk Between the Raindrops • Every Little Bit Counts • Soda and Salt • Fast As I Can • Tired of Walking • Airline Agent • Racing to the Red Light • Comfortable • I Only Want to Talk to You • Rex’s Blues

of related interest

James McMurtry

 Too Long in the Wasteland, Columbia CD CK 45229, 1989
McMurtry’s debut album, and still one of his best.

 It Had to Happen, Sugar Hill CD SHCD-1058, 1997
Another recent gem, if not quite as glowing as  Walk.

Lyle Lovett

 Step Inside This House, MCA CDx2 MCAD-11831, 1998
Lyle’s new twofer is a tribute to Texas singer-songwriters. McMurtry didn’t make the cut, but there is compensation in great tunes by Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Walter Hyatt, Michael Martin Murphey, Robert Earl Keen and others less well known but no less skilled.

Copyright © 1999 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.