Austin-based singer-songwriter James McMurtry has been praised by peers such as John Mellencamp and honored with Americana Music Association awards and a Grammy nomination.
“James writes like he’s lived a lifetime,” classic roots-rocker Mellencamp said.
Mellencamp produced McMurtry’s album debut, 1989’s “Too Long in the Wasteland.” The album helped McMurtry get a record deal with major label Columbia Records. Well-received albums on the Columbia and Sugar Hill labels followed.
A new batch of finely crafted McMurtry compositions, several of the album’s songs mention a place in their titles. There’s “Copper Canteen,” “Long Island Sound,” “South Dakota” and “Forgotten Coast.”
“We do a lot of traveling,” McMurtry said from Austin. “I get a lot of ideas from looking through windshields.”
And there’s “Ain’t Got a Place.” McMurtry wrote it in New Orleans during a night’s stay in a rented room above The R Bar on Royal Street. The song’s banjo-accompanied lyrics mention several U.S. states, none of which the singer can call home.
“Ain’t Got a Place” is a rare McMurtry song written in a single sitting. He usually works from a scrap pile of long-germinating ideas.
“There’s one song on the album, ‘You Got to Me,’ I’m pretty sure I started that more than 20 years ago,” he said. “I got stalled on it and threw it on the scrap pile.”
“Ain’t Got a Place” never hit the scrap pile.
“You hear about people writing songs in 15 minutes,” McMurtry said. “‘Ain’t Got a Place’ was that way. It just kind of fell out of the ceiling.”
“Ain’t Got a Place” came to McMurtry while he was in New Orleans to listen to the mixes for “Complicated Game.” He recorded the album in the city at Mike Napolitano’s studio and also Marigny Recording Studio. Napolitano and Lafayette’s C.C. Adcock co-produced “Complicated Game.”
“I’d go over there for a week and lay down some tracks,” McMurtry said. “The way the record business has turned around, I can’t afford to stop for six weeks and make a record.
“We used to tour to promote record sales, but now it’s the other way around. We make records so reporters will write about us and people will know we’re coming to town.”