Austin singer-songwriter James McMurtry has been praised by such talented peers as John Mellencamp and Jason Isbell.
“James McMurtry is one of my very few favorite songwriters on Earth,” Americana music star Isbell said. “And these days he’s working at the top of his game.”
“James writes like he’s lived a lifetime,” offered classic roots-rocker Mellencamp.
Mellencamp produced McMurtry’s debut album, 1989’s “Too Long in the Wasteland.” It secured a deal with Columbia Records for McMurtry. Well-received albums from the Columbia and Sugar Hill labels followed.
In February, McMurtry, who’s playing Wednesday at One Eyed Jacks, released the made-in-New Orleans “Complicated Game.” It’s another album of finely crafted McMurtry songs. Titles include “Forgotten Coast,” “Long Island Sound,” “South Dakota” and “Copper Canteen.”
“We do a lot of traveling,” McMurtry, the son of novelist Larry McMurtry, said from Austin. “I get a lot of ideas from looking through windshields.”
There’s also “Ain’t Got a Place.” McMurtry wrote it in New Orleans during a night’s stay in a rented room above The R Bar. The song’s banjo-accompanied lyrics mention several U.S. states, none of which the singer thinks he can call home.
“Ain’t Got a Place” is a rare McMurtry composition written in a single sitting. Usually, he works from a scrap pile of long-germinating ideas for songs.
“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.”
The exceptional “Ain’t Got a Place” never reached the scrap pile.
“You hear about people writing songs in 15 minutes,” McMurtry said. “That one was that way. I wrote it upstairs in The R Bar. It kind of fell out of the ceiling when I started playing with opposites. East, west. Up, down. That sort of thing.”
“Ain’t Got a Place” came to McMurtry when he was in New Orleans to listen to mixes for his “Complicated Game” album. He’d recorded the songs at Mike Napolitano’s studio and Marigny Recording Studio. Napolitano co-produced the album with Lafayette producer and musician C.C. Adcock.
“I’d go over there for a week and lay down some tracks,” McMurtry remembered. “The way the record business has turned around, I can’t afford to stop for six weeks and make record. We used to tour to promote record sales, but now we make records so reporters will write about us and people will know we’re coming to town.”
McMurtry and Adcock are friends who’ve hung out together at Austin’s Continental Club. And McMurtry is a fan of Adcock’s 2004 album, “The Lafayette Marquis.”
“I really like the sound of ‘The Lafayette Marquis,’ ” he said. “That’s one of the last records I nearly wore out.”
McMurtry is extremely pleased with Adcock’s and Napolitano’s production work for “Complicated Game.”
“It changed a lot in a couple of weeks and really came together in the mix,” he said. “They did a great job.”