James McMurtry Best of the Sugar Hill Years

James McMurtry Best of the Sugar Hill Years
Despite the fact that the McMurtry name carries big weight in literary circles, chip off the old block James stumbled into the limelight by chance. Upon hearing James’s demo tapes while directing one of Larry’s movie scripts, John Mellencamp volunteered to co-produce 1989’s Too Long in the Wasteland. Some eight CDs later, Best of the Sugar Hill Years chronicles his mid-period (1997 to 2002) with 13 tracks that represent, as many fans of this dark horse Americana roots musician would attest, his most consistent hour. McMurtry’s voice is, at first, an acquired taste, until you realise that it’s the perfect medium to deliver his well-worded portraits of seedy characters and reflections on America’s morally-challenged. An accomplished arranger, McMurtry surrounds himself with crack musicians (Lloyd Maines, Ian McLagan, David Grissom) who help his lyrics take flight, as they do on slow-burning tracks like "Gulf Road,” the comparably upbeat "Broken Red” and the smartly searing "Choctaw Bingo,” which assumes a life of its during its eight-minute length. McMurtry made big news with his first record but, through no fault of his own, slipped between the cracks somewhere along the way despite the sophistication of his output. This collection rights the wrong, serving as a reminder that McMurtry’s catalogue is well worth unearthing. (Sugar Hill)