The son of acclaimed author Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment), James grew up on a steady diet of Johnny Cash and Roy Acuff records. His first album, Too Long in the Wasteland (released in 1989), was produced by John Mellencamp and marked the beginning of a series of acclaimed projects for Columbia and Sugar Hill.
In 2009, Live in Europe was released, capturing The McMurtry Band's first European tour and extraordinary live set. Along with seasoned band members Ronnie Johnson, Daren Hess, and Tim Holt, the disc features special guests Ian McLagan and Jon Dee Graham. Also, for the first time ever, video of the James McMurtry Band's live performance is available on the included DVD.
The poignant lyrics of his immense catalog still ring true today. In 2011, "We Can't Make It Here" was cited among 'The Nation's' "Best Protest Songs Ever." Bob Lefsetz writes, "'We Can't Make It Here' has stood the test of time because of its unmitigated truth."
Never one to rest on his laurels, James McMurtry continues to tour constantly, and consistently puts on a "must-see" powerhouse performance. 'The Washington Post' noted McMurtry's live prowess: "Much attention is paid to James McMurtry's lyrics, and rightfully so: He creates a novel's worth of emotion and experience in four minutes of blisteringly stark couplets. What gets overlooked, however, is that he's an accomplished rock guitar player. At a sold-out Birchmere, the Austin-based artist was joined by drummer Daren Hess and bassist Ronnie Johnson in a set that demonstrated the raw power of wince-inducing imagery propelled by electric guitar. It was serious stuff, imparted by a singularly serious band."
You would think that after multiple albums and seventeen years of touring coast-to-coast and across the pond, the Gourds would have it all down. Well, they do: they project the alt/indie/roots sensibilities of their hometown, Austin, Texas, better than any music group going. They are also the quirkiest bunch of guys you'll ever meet. Playing 150 gigs a year while helping raise 12 offspring among them will do that to a band. Their previous recordings were all done on the fly, close to home, assembled down and dirty. "We were DIY all the way," explained bassist and co-composer Jimmy Smith. This one was done in Woodstock, New York, where the band known as the Band articulated American roots music in a series of recordings, some with their occasional front man, Bob Dylan. The studio was The Barn, a.k.a Levon Helm Studios, the timber-framed recording facility attached to the home of Levon Helm, where the legendary drummer and music icon celebrates the best in contemporary American music at his weekly Midnight Ramble shows.
But from the first notes of "I Want It So Bad," it's clear this is a whole 'nother Gourds on Old Mad Joy.