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Published: 2004/03/30
by Jamie Lee

Live in Aught-Three – James McMurtry and the Heartless Bastards

Compadre Records 6-1689256822-3 The best stories are told with a smoky, fireside quality that reeks of
reality. Austin, Texas’s James McMurtry has it pegged. On his most recent
release , a live collection entitled Live in Aught-Three, McMurtry
tells his tales with his trademark matter-of-fact tone, backed soundly by
his band the Heartless Bastards – Daren Hess (drums) and Ronnie Johnson
(bass) – who ably accent his bare-bone lyrics and wiry guitar work on the
album’s 14 tracks.
Culled from performances in Salt Lake City, Utah, Asheville, North
Carolina., Nashville, Tennessee and Wichita, Kansas, Live in
Aught-Three breathes with a defined clarity that defines McMurtry and
the dust bowl lives of his subjects. His vocal quality is befitting of the
best backwoods storytellers, his subjects real people living real life with
true hardships. From "Too Long in this Wasteland" to "Levelland," his lyrics
tell of those who long to break out of their stale existence, while others,
like "No More Buffalo" lament broken dreams. The redneck opus "Choctaw
Bingo" unravels a tail of a family’s travel to a family reunion, and despite
its length, does so with flashes of midwestern flare that decorate much of
McMurtry’s work.
Since 1989, McMurtry has released six albums and written countless songs,
and while Live in Aught-Three pulls from all of his releases, it does
so with the feeling that the live setting is the forum in which his stories
are to be spun. Often quaint, always colorful, and never boring, McMurtry
embodies the qualities of the songwriting greats. Truth, loss, grit and
glory soak through each track, pulled not only from McMurtry’s guitar and
heart, but from the real people of the world. With command over his talent – both lyrically and musically – McMurtry leaves no doubt that his words will
be branded forever in the annals of Americana music

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