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Duck Club Presents

JAMES MCMURTRY

with Jonny Burke

Tuesday, October 25th at NEUROLUX $20 adv / $25 door 7:00pm doors / 8:00pm show 21+ (valid ID required)   COVID Policy - A proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours will be required in order to enter the venue. (At-home test results will not be accepted.) We highly encourage everyone to wear masks throughout the show when they aren't drinking. James would appreciate it if the COVID requirements were acknowledged for the safety and enjoyment of his fans and staff.
In James McMurtry’s new effort, The Horses and the Hounds, the acclaimed songwriter backs personal narratives with effortless elegance (“Canola Fields”) and endless energy (“If It Don’t Bleed”). This first collection in seven years, due August 20 on New West Records, spotlights a seasoned tunesmith in peak form as he turns toward reflection (“Vaquero”) and revelation ( closer “Blackberry Winter”). Familiar foundations guide the journey. “There’s a definite Los Angeles vibe to this record,” McMurtry says. “The ghost of Warren Zevon seems to be stomping around among the guitar tracks. Don’t know how he got in there. He never signed on for work for hire.” The Horses and the Hounds is a reunion of sorts. McMurtry recorded the new album with legendary producer Ross Hogarth (John Fogerty, Van Halen, Keb’ Mo’) at Jackson Browne’s Groovemaster’s in Santa Monica, California, a world class studio that has housed such legends as Bob Dylan (2012’s Tempest) and David Crosby (2016’s Lighthouse) as well as Browne himself for I’m Alive (1993) and New Found Glory, Coming Home (2006). McMurtry and Hogarth first worked together 30 years ago, when Hogarth was a recording engineer in the employ of John Mellencamp at Mellencamp’s own Belmont Studios near Bloomington, Indiana. Hogarth recorded McMurtry’s first two albums, Too Long in the Wasteland and Candyland, for Columbia Records and later mixed McMurtry’s first self-produced album, Saint Mary of the Woods, for Sugar Hill Records. Another veteran of those three releases, guitarist David Grissom (Joe Ely, John Mellencamp, Dixie Chicks), returns with some of his finest work. Accordingly, the new collection marks another upward trajectory: The Horses and the Hounds will be McMurtry’s debut album on genre-defining Americana record label New West Records (Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Lucinda Williams, John Hiatt, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Buddy Miller, dozens more). “I first became aware of James McMurtry’s formidable songwriting prowess while working at Bug Music Publishing in the ’90s,” says New West president John Allen. “He’s a true talent. All of us at New West are excited at the prospect of championing the next phase of James’ already successful and respected career.” McMurtry perfectly fits a label housing “artists who perform real music for real people.” After all, No Depression says of the literate songwriter’s most recent collection, Complicated Game: “Lyrically, the album is wise and adventurous, with McMurtry — who’s not prone to autobiographical tales — credibly inhabiting characters from all walks of life.” “[McMurtry] fuses wry, literate observations about the world with the snarl of barroom rock,” National Public Radio says. “The result is at times sardonic, subversive and funny, but often vulnerable and always poignant.” His lauded storytelling — check out songs such as “Operation Never Mind” and “Ft. Walton Wake-Up Call” on The Horse and the Hounds— consistently has turned heads for decades now. “James writes like he’s lived a lifetime,” said John Mellencamp back in 1989, when Too Long in the Wasteland hit the Billboard 200. “James McMurtry is one of my very few favorite songwriters on Earth and these days he’s working at the top of his game,” says Americana all-star Jason Isbell. “He has that rare gift of being able to make a listener laugh out loud at one line and choke up at the next. I don’t think anybody writes better lyrics.” McMurtry’s albums Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005) back the claim, each scoring endless critical praise. The former earned McMurtry his highest Billboard 200 chart position in two decades (since eclipsed by Complicated Game) and notched Americana Music Award nominations. Childish Things spent six full weeks topping the Americana Music Radio chart in 2005 and 2006, and won the Americana Music Association’s Album of the Year, with “We Can’t Make It Here” named the organization’s Song of the Year. Other accolades include a 1996 Grammy nomination for Long Form Music Video for Where’d You Hide the Body and an American Indie Award for Best Americana Album for It Had to Happen (1997). McMurtry tours year-round and consistently throws down unparalleled powerhouse performances, reflected in the release of two live discs: the universally lauded Live in Aught-Three on Compadre Records, and 2009’s Live in Europe, which captured the McMurtry band’s first European tour and extraordinary live set. Along with seasoned band members Ronnie Johnson, Daren Hess, and Tim Holt, Live in Europe features special guests Ian McLagan (Faces) and Jon Dee Graham (True Believers, Skunks). (Video of the performance is available on the included DVD.) “Lyircally gritty, musically gutsy, go tell ‘em all…we need James McMurtry bringin’ us more.” —Andrew Farrris, INXS “James McMurtry may be the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation” —Stephen King
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Jonny Burke

Jonny Burke fortifies vivid vignettes with a poet’s eye (“Behind the Pine Curtain”) and an alchemist’s precision (“High Katie”). Exhibit A: Behind the Pine Curtain. The Central Texas songwriter’s excellent new acoustic collection due April 26, 2022 deftly backs tongue-in-cheek narratives (“I Cut Off My Ankle Monitor to Be Here”) with Technicolor earworms (“Pipe Bomb Dream”). Time served in the Lone Star state’s penal system guides the journey. “The lyrical theme of the album was a conscious decision,” Burke says. “I wanted to explore all the events and circumstances surrounding that time and the people I was around while incarcerated.”

 

Behind the Pine Curtain delivers Burke’s trademark story songs over and again (“Last Time I Get Drunk in This House,” “Let Me Make It”). The songwriter aimed his ambitions high. “Before I went in a friend joked that I could come out and make a prison record that even Steve Earle couldn’t touch,” he says. “I tried to stay away from looking like I was glamorizing anything about it though because there’s nothing fun or fashionable about being locked up. I want to try to forget that year as quickly as I can, but while the memories were still fresh I knew it would be important to document them if they came out in song form with any merit. If for nothing else than to remind myself in the future to never end up back in that place.”

 

Results immediately turned heads. “I’ve been a fan of Jonny Burke’s for a long time now,” legendary East Nashville songwriter Todd Snider says. “He always has been able to express what he has been through with a poet’s touch. Now he’s been through the adventure of a lifetime and has turned it into a major album.” “Jonny Burke is one of the best songwriters around,” echoes Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter John Fullbright. “Jonny always has a new song that’s my new favorite. He’s a songwriter’s songwriter’s songwriter.” Spin the closing “Don’t Have Much Time” alone for evidence.

 

The title track might back the claim even better. “‘Behind The Pine Curtain’ was written while I was being transferred from a unit in Far East Texas to one north of Abilene,” Burke says. “If you’re being transferred you invariably end up back in Huntsville for a few nights or weeks even if it’s not on the way to where you’re going. In prison lingo it’s called ‘catching chain’ because you’re literally chained to another prisoner and and you’re loaded on the Bluebird packed like sardines. Nothing is air conditioned in TDCJ and A/C is a luxury I’ll never take for granted again.”

 

Burke mixes and matches blues and folk influences with a rock and roll heart throughout Behind the Pine Curtain, which is something he’s consistently done since forming the regionally popular Dedringers as a fifteen year old prodigy. The band grew their rabid following for seven years until an amicable split in 2009. Burke then spent three years living with a friend in Topanga Canyon, California and became a fixture of the Los Angeles music scene during that time while opening national tours for Ryan Bingham and James McMurtry.

 

Burke doubled down on his youthful influences to hone his singular songwriting during this time. “Chuck Berry’s songs spoke to me as a child and raised my consciousness to a greater level,” he says. “As did Hank Williams’ songs and John Prine’s. I learned very young that songs are a great medium for a story.” His studies have paid dividends. “Jonny Burke is as creative and prolific a songwriter as I’ve ever known,” Turnpike Troubadours lead singer Evan Felker says. “He’s devoted himself completely to his writing and in doing so has seen sides of the world in peaks and valleys many of us don’t know are there.” Celebrated tunesmith Joe Pug goes one further: “There are very few songwriters who can write with style about eternal things and Jonny Burke is one of them.”

 

Behind the Pine Curtain showcases lessons learned with that unmistakable style. “For some strange reason, when we got to Huntsville I got lucky and they put me in an isolation cell next door to all the people that are in there for life who are too dangerous for general population,” Burke says. “This was a huge plus, because it meant I had time to myself for the first time in months. That’s where I wrote “Behind the Pine Curtain” and others that are on this album. It’s about any number of the random guys I was locked up with. And also about the feeling that if I had gone searching for the bottom of the world, here it was.”

-Brian T. Atkinson