He's got a few more gray hairs in his goatee now, but James McMurtry is still the dry-as-a-West-Texas-creekbed voice of the proletariat on his latest album, Just Us Kids. And in this new Texas country effort, he's ratcheted up the discontent of Childish Things to no-holds-barred vitriol, with his plainspoken anger on full display. Thankfully, he's got the chops to pull this off without it sounding like whining. His dad is none other than Larry McMurtry, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Lonesome Dove is arguably one of the great American masterworks of our time. But with songs like "Cheney's Toy," he's making his disappointment with the current administration as obvious as possible. The ditty is melodic, classic McMurtry, with clear, powerful choruses and guitar notes he expertly drips over the song at just the right moments. But it's like painting flowers on a knife. And that's just what makes the disc so entertaining.
And no McMurtry album would be complete without that swamp-swing rock piece like "Lobo Town" in Saint Mary of the Woods. On this album, it's "God Bless America," a deft, petro-political jab at our Middle Eastern foreign policy. "Gonna turn up the heat till it comes to a boil/Then we'll go git that A-rab oil /We'll suck it all up through the barrel of a gun/Everyday's the end of days for some/Republicans don't cut and run/Tell me ain't you proud of what we've done." If you're a fan, you know some of his earlier albums were serviceable works with glints of brilliance. McMurtry can at least be proud of what he's done here on his latest work, which is a solid listen all the way through.