James McMurtry is an acclaimed rock and folk/Americana singer. His latest release, Complicated Game, spotlights a craftsman in absolutely peak form as he turns from political toward personal. “The lyrical theme is mostly about relationships,” McMurtry says. “It’s also a little about the big old world versus the poor little farmer or fisherman”.
The New York Times Magazine’s “25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going” features James McMurtry: “Copper Canteen, the opening track on his 2015 album, Complicated Game, is the song I’ve returned to most since Election Day. The narrator is a hunter, a fisherman and a small-business owner. He doesn’t go to church, but his wife does. Although retirement is in sight, and he has a pension, he hasn’t been able to save as much money as he would like, in part because the store he owns is getting squeezed by “the big boxes out on the bypass.”
Complicated Game delivers McMurtry’s trademark story songs time and again, but the record brings a new (and certainly no less energetic) sonic approach. First, recall blistering beats and gnashing guitars from his magnum opus Just Us Kids (2008). Now, unplug. “The label head wanted more acoustic,” McMurtry explains. “We built everything as we went so we ended up with more acoustic guitar as we went. We just played whatever sounded right for a given song, but we weren’t necessarily saying this is an acoustic record.” Complicated Game doubles down on literate storytelling longtime enthusiasts expect.
John Mellencamp served as co-producer on McMurtry's critically lauded debut album, Too Long in the Wasteland, marking the beginning of a series of acclaimed projects for Columbia and Sugar Hill Records. McMurtry has worked with Mellencamp, John Prine, Joe Ely, and Dwight Yoakam.