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January 11, 2010

Rambling Man's Thoughts: The James McMurtry Interview

By Lena Katz

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James Las Manitas-Lena Katz End All, Be All: McMurtry, himself. (Ann Woodall)

I promised I'd come back to James McMurtry, and here I am...constructing a tight little interview out of a rambling man's thoughts. If you ever get to Austin, look for him at the Continental Club or a wine bar, and see if you can pick up the conversation where I left off.

Why is the Continental Club your regular Austin spot?
It's the coolest club left in this town, and the last of old Austin. It's been open since the 1950s.

What's an artist you've never admitted to liking before?
All my musician friends would laugh if they knew I went through a Grateful Dead phase. The first time I saw them play at Compton Terrace [Phoenix, AZ] was amazing. It had special effects by God. A dust storm came up so thick it obscured the planes coming in. The tarps were pulsating, with lightning behind. There was a wall of hand drums behind the stage, and everyone left the stage except the two drummers, who beat their way around the stage, [the dust, the wind, lightning, the drums], all in perfect synch. I wasn't doing any drugs, so I could tell it was really happening...but a lot of people in the audience probably always thought it was in their minds.

How about a girly influence for once? (Myself having read the Kris Kristofferson mentions one too many times...)
Joan Baez, and I actually got to open for her. She's not really girly though, just...pure.

What's it like being the voice of the blue dot in the red state?
I don't see myself as that. I just felt my vote didn't count. I'd tried to stay away from politics in my music because I felt it would be a sermon, but I got so mad it didn't matter. And now I realize...we have to be vocal.

Is your music going to become more or less political?
It'll stay the same. I'm not going to avoid political music, but I can't wrap my head around what's happening now.

What's one thing Texas does better than California?
That's a good question....and I don't have an answer for it right now.

What do you love about Texas more than anywhere in the world?
The bag limits on white-tailed deer are very liberal.

Places James McMurtry Mentions in the Course of our Quasi-Rambling 3 a.m. Discussion Pertaining to Highways and Music and Politics and all Things in Between:

Fall Creek Vineyards...After a long hiatus, James is back to being a wine enthusiast, and since I am too, he thought I should check out this Texas Hill Country winery known for its MERITUS Bordeaux varietal blend.

Albuquerque and Santa particular, the New Mexico Rail Runner Express that travels between the two cities. He first noticed it while driving by during its construction, and was struck by both the advanced technology used to build the line, and the speed of its completion. With a little research, I have learned that this impressive new commuter train was in fact funded by the state of New Mexico, green-lit in 2003, started passenger service in 2006, and was completed up to Santa Fe by 2008. I think the Department of Transportation in Texas and California could learn something from this.

Port Aransas, Fairmont San Antonio, Continental Club Houston...three of his favorite places in Texas.

Tucson, Arizona...the city where James' father, Larry McMurtry often can be found these days, and where I should give him a buzz if I happen to be in the neighborhood.

To hear McMurtry vocalizing about politics, buy the 2005 album Childish Things. Recommended song: "We Can't Make It Here." Or on the 2008 album Just Us Kids, listen to "Cheney's Toy." For those of you interested in poetry not policy, "Fireline Road" on Just Us Kids is bleak and lovely.

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