It’s been six long years since we last got a studio album from alternative country troubadour James McMurtry. Happily, the sublime “Complicated Game” proves well worth the wait and, if anything, is a notch better than its predecessor, 2008’s “Just Us Kids.”
“The lyrical theme is mostly about relationships,” McMurtry says of the 12-track, 55-minute new release. “It’s also a little bit about the big old world vs. the poor little farmer or fisherman. I never make a conscious decision what to write about.”
Like his Puliztzer Prize-winning novelist father Larry McMurtry (“Lonesome Dove,” “Terms of Endearment”), the younger McMurtry is a writer of the first order. Those storytelling skills are on prominent display throughout “Complicated Game.”
The opening salvo of “Copper Canteen,” “You Got to Me” and “Ain’t Got a Place” is as good as anything on McMurtry’s resume and he also delivers on standouts “How’m I Gonna Find You Now,” “These Things I’ve Come to Know,” “Forgotten Coast,” the Bob Dylan-esque “Long Island Sound” and “Cutter.” There is more of a reliance on acoustic instrumentation this time, which effectively underscores the power of the lyrics.
James McMurtry has been a musical treasure for more than a quarter century and “Complicated Game” offers definitive proof that he’s still got plenty left in the tank. (Jeffrey Sisk)