Title - The Horses and the Hounds
Artist - James McMurtry
For those unaware, on 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), never once bowing to the hand of commerciality.
This first collection in seven years, due August 20th, 2021 via 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.
Accordingly, the new collection marks another upward trajectory: The Horses and the Hounds will be McMurtry’s debut album on the aforementioned, genre-defining Americana record label New West Records (Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Lucinda Williams, John Hiatt, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Buddy Miller, dozens more).
1. Canola Fields
2. If It Don’t Bleed
3. Operation Never Mind
5. Decent Man
7. The Horses and the Hounds
8. Ft. Walton Wake-Up Call
9. What’s The Matter
10. Blackberry Winter
This simply magnificent, troubadour-esque musical outing opens on the gently hipsway of Canola Fields and the slightly more upbeat, Zevon and Petty-imbued If It Don’t Bleed and backs those up with the gentle foot tapper Operation Never Mind, the earnest balladry of Jackie and then brings us the Americana storytelling within Decent Man.
Next up is the gentle hipsway of Vaquero and the funky blues rock of the title track, The Horses and the Hounds, which is itself backed by the countrified twang of Ft. Walton Wake-Up Call, the album rounding out on the gently rambunctious rocker What’s The Matter, closing on the roots-rock ambiance of Blackberry Winter.
The Horses and the Hounds is a reunion of sorts. McMurtry recorded the new album with legendary producer Ross Hogarth (Ozzy Osbourne, John Fogerty, Van Halen, Keb’ Mo’) at Jackson Browne’s Groove Masters 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.
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).
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