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4.8 out of 5 stars
Too Long in the Wasteland
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
I agree with the sentiment expressed by another reviewer that if radio programmers had any imagination, James McMurtry would be a superstar. But, to borrow a line from one of McMurty's songs, the programmers 'work from the neck down', they 'don't call the shots'.
This release alone should have established James McMurtry as a musical superstar, yet as fate has it, he continues to languish in relative obscurity despite a string of pretty decent albums.
I bought "Too Long In the Wasteland" on cassette back when it was released years ago. I was instantly struck by his pithy and witty lyrics, and his dry sardonic delivery.
The very first song, Painting By Numbers, strikes an immediate chord with all who feel trapped in meaningless, dead-end jobs.
I'm Not From Here will resonate with anyone who has moved to another part of the country and encountered the prejudice of regionalism, particularly directed against those who come from states that have contributed large numbers of newcomers to an area. For instance, native Coloradans don't particularly like the influx of Texans and Californians, and so segments of the native population harbor resentments against people from those states. The lyrics could describe many a western city:

nobody's from here
most of us just live here
locals long since moved away
sold their played-out farms for parking lots
went off looking for a better way
The rest of the song rings just as true. I noticed driving home from a long trip today that many ranches are for sale 50-100 miles out from the city as landowners seek to cash in on soaring property values and to escape encroaching urbanization. And I see the same all over the west.
Another favorite from this CD is Talkin' at the Texaco, which perfectly describes how stultifying small town life can be.
The other songs are excellent, too, but in the interests of brevity I highlighted only the best ones. Mc Murtry has an obvious knack for storytelling in such a way that cuts to the chase.
I recommend this CD to anyone who is attracted to a little realism in music and who enjoys an alternative country/folk type of sound.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2001
Format: Audio CD
I don't know who to compare McMurtry to, or what catagory to put his music in. I discoved him many years ago when this album was featured on NPR's 'Fresh Air with Terry Gross'. I've loved his work ever since.
I now own all of James McMurtry's CD's, but his debut effort still ranks as my favorite. His uncanny ability to paint pictures of places, people and events with relatively few words is a gift that even his famous author father must envy. James can capture the feeling of a place or situation in a three or four minute song that could take Larry chapters.
It isn't only the lyrics that make this a wonderful CD. The tunes are compelling and memorable with little hooks that I find myself humming repeatedly days and weeks after listening to one of his discs. His distinctive voice is low, warm and with a slight western draw that is quite engaging.
Among my favorite songs on the album are Terry, Song for a Deck Hand's Daughter and Crazy Wind. But perhaps the best song he's ever written is the title track, Too Long in the Wasteland. Whenever I play that song in my car, my son and I just smile and say "Cool Song".
He hasn't released new material since 98, and that is 'too long in the wasteland' for his fans. Hopefully he will resurface soon!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2002
Format: Audio CD
James McMurtry has a fantastic knack for distilling people and places into a few well-chosen words. The best i can do, i think, is quote a couple of lyrics:
"I hadn't intended to bend the rules, but whiskey don't make liars, it just makes fools. So I didn't mean to say it, but I meant what I said."
"You should have been here, back about ten years, before it got ruined by folks like me."
"Back home for Christmas, it's just like the good old days, fighting with your Mom, fighting with your sister, your brother had sense so he stayed away".
My only complaint with this album is a little two-beat bar rhythmic device he overuses - he got those surprise rhythms under more control on later albums. But for lyrics, this one is the winner.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2001
Format: Audio CD
I came across his first album, when I visited the US. FIrst, I thought it was Lou Reed, but then someone told me who it was. When I listened through it, I realized that that I've never heard anything like it before. The stories on the album are very down to earth, and the music is great. Every song on the album is great. I just wish the swedish people would discover him, so that he'll make a couple of gigs in sweden.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
McMurtry's first album is merely a harbinger of the greatness he would later achieve on "Where'd You Hide the Body" and "It Had to Happen" (his two best albums). Still, its pretty damn good. The first side (six tracks) are nearly perfect, starting with the classic "Painting By Numbers," a cynical ode to the working life. "Terry" is a harrowing tale of an unwitting juvenile delinquent; while "Shining Eyes" and "Outskirts," are about relationships both turning sour and being lost. McMurtry can't sustain this level of excellence for the whole album, but his undeniable talent still makes for a stunning debut.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
I bought this album on the recommendation of a friend and boy am I glad I did! The lyrics are poignant and yet work. You can tell that he inherited his dad's ('Lonesome Dove' author Larry McMurtry) ability to mold and use the English language. But the great thing is that the music is just as good as the lyrics - you'd be singing along even if the words were meaningless.

I gave my only copy to a friend (and fellow fan who had worn his cassette out) that was called up to active duty after 9/11 - I knew that he could use the boost more than me.

Every McMurtry album has great songs but this one is strong all of the way through!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2000
Format: Audio CD
This guy hit the ground running. This album may be the debut of a young songwriter but it has the kind of world-weary perceptiveness of an aging, brilliant novelist--something I suppose James's father knows something about. The songs here are beautifully written short stories with humor and heartbreak weaving in and out. The lyrics are stunning ("If a telephone rings in an empty room, does it make a sound/When I get back from the East coast, will you still be around/Well, it's hard to say/Doesn't look that way") and the music fits it perfectly.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 1999
Format: Audio CD
James McMurtry has the gift to say more in one line of lyric than most songwriters say in an entire album's worth of songs. Each song on this album paints cinematic themescapes with such honesty and vivid imagery you'll find yourself casting imaginary actors in your head for each of the stories on this collection. I'm lucky enough to know James and played bass on his first U.S. tour and never tired of hearing these songs every night. They still move me. I could highlight certain cuts, but "Wasteland" is best heard in it's entirety, front cover to back cover.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2004
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
You don't remember Dylan's melodies as much as his words. 'Gargling in the rat race choir' ? Well, McMurtry is a North Texas Bob Dylan, even more than Oklahoma's Jimmy LaFave. He is one of those artists that hasn't made a bad song; because, every song's words make you think. I own every CD, except the new live one. If you like one CD, you will like them all.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2001
Format: Audio CD
JM's first album is his most consistent and warmest set, containing excellent,intelligent songs and musicianship. There are no failures in th esonglist but Outskirts, Song for a deckhand's daughter,I'm not from here and Angeline are all outstanding.
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