For two hours, James McMurtry and his band made the audience at the Door Community Auditorium feel like they were dancing on a dusty wood floor instead of sitting in rows, sipping beer instead of water, and wearing cowboy boots instead of flip flops.
He brought some grit to Fish Creek, and it was good.
James McMurtry is an accomplished songwriter, was nominated for a Grammy and has released 10 albums. His songs are moving, smart and entertaining. He definitely fulfilled the Auditorium’s promise to bring Door County a “season of story and song.”
But I have to admit – I went into this one blind. When reading the Auditorium’s 2013 lineup of musicians over the phone to my mother, she stopped me at James McMurtry. “James McMurtry! Carol. You have to go.”
That was all the convincing I needed, but hearing he’s the son of Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry didn’t hurt.
Larry’s storytelling prowess definitely shows itself in his son’s music. Both father and son tell stories with characters you love and remember, scenes that make you laugh or hurt, and they do it with beautiful, approachable language.
James McMurtry started off the night playing Bayou Tortoise, and moved on to other classics like Red Dress and Copper Canteen. The crowd favorite was definitely Just Us Kids, and mine was Out Here in the Middle.
His lyrics made the show feel like the best poetry reading on earth, but that didn’t overshadow the music, which was powerful and robust enough to move some of us from the polite Midwestern crowd to dance in front of the stage.
It probably isn’t fair to judge an act by the audience, but I think in James McMurtry’s case it would be ok. A good crowd came out to see his performance, and a lot of local musicians warmed the seats to see McMurtry play. pat mAcdonald even played a few songs with the band.
It was a good idea to trust those musicians in the crowd. The show was fun, impressive and moving. If I ever see James McMurtry on a lineup again, I won’t need any convincing. I’ll be there.