Written by James Killen
It hasn’t been long since my last dose of James McMurtry, but getting to see him at the Heights Theater was too good to pass up. A young writer from West Texas, Jason Robert Blum, opened the evening with a more Western than Country style of folk. He appeared solo with an acoustic guitar and entertained the audience as it ambled in to find seats with songs from his last CD, “Invisible Words” and a collaboration that he is working on with a number of other Texas singer songwriters called “Glorietta”.
Blum is a talented lyricist with songs like “Troubled Mind”, “I Can’t Drink Enough of You” and “Wimberley”. Some of the songs deal with personal struggles and some wane political from an economic perspective. He also performed “Las Estrella” from “Glorietta” completely in Spanish.
McMurtry brought his full band for this show. The set followed pretty much the same song list that they had brought to the Continental Club in Houston, late last year(“Turtle Bayou, “Red Dress”, “What’s the Matter Now”….). Outside of changing out a few songs in the set (“Lights of Cheyenne” for the acoustic offering and “No More Buffalo” for the encore) , the real difference between the two shows was the environment. The Continental Club creates a big party atmosphere with dancing and socializing and a blasting loud sound system. The Heights Theater is a more refined venue, with reserved tables, no dance floor provisions and a clear well-presented sound.
The audience included a number of Continental Club fans, who appropriately whooped it up during the raucous “Choctaw Bingo”. McMurtry, himself encouraged the party atmosphere, urging fans to get up on the non-existent dance floor. Personally, I welcomed the calmer, clearer listening experience at the Heights. The lyrics came through loud and clear. The sound engineer had the instruments separated out so that the audience could enjoy each musician’s performance as well as that of the whole band.
Cornbread’s bass came through steady and firm and I better appreciated the contributions of Tim Holt’s guitar work, which I had previously not really noticed. McMurtry’s work also seemed more outstanding through the clearer sound system.
The Heights show really bridged the gap between the Continental electric show and the Mucky Duck acoustic show of about ten months ago. I was able to enjoy the energy of the stretched out electric solos and the fine musicianship and clear lyrics in the Theater. For those listeners that felt confined by the Heights environment, McMurtry is certain to return soon to the Continental for another great party show.