James McMurtry’s Just Us Kids was released earlier this year (I’ve never been on the cutting edge of anything so I just got it) and is enjoying some success on the Americana Radio Chart. I don’t really know much about McMurtry other than the fact that his dad was Larry McMurtry and that he’s a damn good songwriter.
The only record I had really ever heard of his was “Choctaw Bingo”, (a word on my terminology: I tend to refer to “singles” as “records” sometimes, its a radio thing, its bound to happen) a wonderful, white-trash epic of a song in which he admits that even though Ruth-Ann and Lynn are his second cousins he wants ” to get between ’em with a great big ol’ hard on like an old Bois d’ Arc fence post you could hang a gate from and do some sister twistin.”
Also I guess “Levelland” from Robert Earl Keen’s Picnic is one of his, but I’ve never heard him sing it.
Well Just Us Kids is not like that at all. I was hoping it would be, but now I’m glad for what it is: a thoughtful, well-written, and timely album that makes up in passion what it lacks in subtlety. With songs like “Cheney’s Toy” it’s a bit more directly political than I like from my alt-country but none of it comes across like an immature screed (see once relevant NOFX’s Wolves in Wolves Clothing for an example of that. Why hast Fat Mike forsaken fun?).
The best song on the album is “Ruby and Carlos”, a story-song about a middle-aged cowgirl and a would be country drummer with combat experience. They start together and get torn apart by…life, I guess. Draw your own conclusions. \”Ruby and Carlos\”
Some songs on Just Us Kids are lighter, but there’s a heapin’ helpin’ of incest (not the funny kind from “Choctaw Bingo”), murder, corruption, and heartache. I give it four stars.