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Just Us Kids

39 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 15, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

James McMurtry is an American folk music singer-songwriter and occasional actor (Daisy Miller, Lonesome Dove). Lightning Rod Records releases McMurty's ninth album ,Just Us Kids, and it features 12 new songs as a follow-up to 2005's critically acclaimed and award-winning project, Childish Things. McMurtry makes a strong political statement on Just Us Kids. Joining McMurtry are the C.C. Adcock, Jon Dee Graham, Ian McLagan and Timbuk3's Pat MacDonald.

1. Bayou Tortous
2. Just Us Kids
3. God Bless America (Pat MacDonald Must Die)
4. Cheney's Toy
5. Freeway View
6. Hurricane Party
7. Ruby and Carlos
8. Brief Intermission
9. Fireline Road
10. The Governor
11. Ruins of the Realm
12. You'd a' Thought (Leonard Cohen Must Die)

Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 15, 2008)
  • Original Release Date: 2008
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Lightning Rod Records
  • ASIN: B0015FQZAS
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,512 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Harding VINE VOICE on June 2, 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have no idea why some reviewers complain about the political content of some of James McMurtry's songs. He's been delivering rhetorical body blows ever since his first album and he surely sees no reason to stop now. So if you are a conservative like myself who enjoys McMurtry's music, you learn to laugh along with his well-honed and well-aimed jabs at those who have surely earned them. Sure he's a leftie, but how many good right-wing singer/songwriters can you think of?
Just Us Kids finds McMurtry delivering another flurry of blows against the empire, but it also finds him releasing another album of mostly thoughtful and well-crafted songs. Bayou Tortous is the best rocker, the caustic God Bless America the best polemic, and the creepy Fire Line Road, evocative of the style of Dave Alvin, is the best story. Some criticize him for singing of people living on the margins, but that is where some of the most compelling stories are found.
With Just Us Kids you get just over an hour's worth of music you'll want to hear again and again. The CD comes with a booklet containing the lyrics which unfortunately is crammed tightly inside the rather flimsy cardboard casing. Be careful when removing! Some ask why McMurtry isn't more famous. Well, if he keeps releasing CDs of this quality, his time is coming soon.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By hyperbolium on April 15, 2008
Format: Audio CD
McMurtry's built a sizeable resume since his 1989 John Mellancamp-produced debut and his 1991 collaboration with Mellencamp, John Prine, Joe Ely and Dwight Yoakam. The influences of that latter work still reverberates through his music, with Mellencamp's heartland rock, Prine's writerly words and Ely's maverick stance all providing input. Unlike those three, however, McMurtry often sings in a dry, near-monotone style that crosses the tuneful tunelessness of Dylan or Lou Reed with the wry asides of Ben Vaughn. His flat delivery seems at first like it would wear thin at album length, but his songs compel you forward, his band hits some exceptional grooves, and in the end, his singing and lyrical voices are closely aligned. McMurtry confronts current political issues with the sort of disgust that is surprisingly rare in contemporary music. The heavy blues "God Bless America" casts an eye on America's warrior-junkie pursuit of fossil fuels and the corporate soldiers taking point, and "Cheney's Toy" lays out the broad-scale and intimate impacts of the Iraq war. His measured vocals work perfectly here, keeping the bitter emotions at a steady, contemptuous simmer. Isolation pervades both "Hurricane Party" and "Fireline Road," the former allegorically tying to a storm's aftermath, the latter starkly spoken in its story of abuse. John Dee Graham plays a haunting guitar solo on the latter, Ian McLagan adds a terrific piano solo to "Freeway View," and Pat MacDonald blows blue harp for the harrowing homicide of "The Governor." McMurtry's a passionate man who ably expresses strong opinions with lyrical dexterity. He's effective with a limited vocal range, making up in tone and dynamics (and characters, stories and well-crafted phrases) what he lacks in notes. [©2008 hyperbolium dot com]
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Roberto H on April 16, 2008
Format: Audio CD
"Just Us Kids" is a great sounding album. The guitar grooves are toe-tapping on the electric songs and compelling on the accoustic ones. Really good stuff. In fact, it might be my favorite sounding album yet.

The reason why I hesitate to give it 5 stars, though, is the political songs on the album. As far as modern day political ballads go, they're pretty good - but that ain't exactly saying much (see Eddie Vedder's drivel on an otherwise outstanding soundtrack for "Into the Wild").

It's not his opinions that bother me (to each his own), it's the overtness of them that I don't like. I think McMurtry is at his best when his songs are more metaphoric, when he creates characters and stories that carry deeper meanings below the surface. For example, "Hurricane Party" (great song!) and "Just us Kids" do this very well, while his political songs ("Cheney's Toy" and "Ruins of the Realm") abandon subtlety in order to score way-too-obvious political points.

If he wants to make his anti-Bush and anti-corporation points, I'd like to see them couched in more timeless or symbolic terms - like Bob Dylan's "The Times, They are a Changin';" i.e. make the song be anti-Bush without ever mentioning his name. That way, it's not just anti-Bush but anti-anyone-who's-like-Bush. Plus, his message isn't just relevant for 2008 listeners but for 2028 listeners as well.

That being said, this is a great album and I've really enjoyed listening to it.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By R. Kyle VINE VOICE on May 8, 2008
Format: Audio CD
The man's a genius, what can I say--he's got Dad (Larry McMurtry's) flair for words and his music mentors (Bruce Hornsby and John Cougar Mellencamp's) skill at putting together a killer song.

And no one would tell him to shut up and sing--because James doesn't pull punches about what he thinks. He'll belt out what he thinks in his road-worn Texas twang. No label's telling him what to do--"Just us Kids" is McMurtry's own production.

As a kid from the 60's, I like protest songs of all kinds, but McMurtry's given up his more subtle hammer and chisel for a power tool here, for example in "God Bless America (Pat mAcdonald must die" takes Timbuk3's two hit wonder, "National Holiday" quite a few steps further:

Gonna turn up the heat 'til it comes to a boil
Then we'll go get that Arab oil
We'll suck it all up through the barrel of a gun
Everyday's the end of days for some

The song sounds good, but will it stand the test of time?

If you want to hear something that's a bit deeper and still has strong take-no-prisoners lyrics, listen to "Fire Line Road," which details the story of how an abused child copes, distancing herself from her real life hoping it's all a reality show and "they can go home in a week or so".

"Ruby and Carlos" is also another standout, talking about a May-December romance between a man who packed up his dreams and drums leaving his woman out on the farm. The story-song parallels their lives as they go through wars, aging, alcoholism, etc.

"Fire Line Road," "Ruby and Carlos", "Just us Kids" and "Hurricane Party" make this collection merit 5 stars and those are the songs you should listen to if you love McMurtry's more timeless and elegant lyrics.

Rebecca Kyle, May 2008
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