James McMurtry didn't get where he is today because of his voice. Or, maybe, James McMurtry could have gotten a lot farther if he had a more inviting voice. It's a rumbly slur that spews from his throat, all spit and growl and declaration. Notes outside a narrow range of choices in the middle of his register? We don't need no stinkin' high or low notes!
But changing McMurtry's voice would ruin his songs, or at least make them something so diametrically different as to make them unimaginable. I don't think I've ever heard anybody cover McMurtry's material. He's one of those guys whose singing is inextricably wedded to his songs.
And his voice fits perfectly with the whomp whomp of the drums, the slow throb of the bass, the chugging chords of his electric guitar. Last year McMurtry released his first live album, Live in Ought-Three, and it's all the evidence anybody should need to fight for a spot at the foot of the Duck Room stage next week. James McMurtry takes rock and country into a highly idiosyncratic, powerful place.
Here's the obligatory place to mention that, yes, James McMurtry is the son of novelist Larry McMurtry. Like his father, James has studied and revealed elements of life in Texas. He just does it with a lot more oomph.
Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door. Call 314-534-1111 for more information.
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