James McMurtry's penchant for lyrical detail would seem to come naturally; he is, after all, the son of novelist Larry McMurtry, author of the Lonesome Dove sagas and other gritty narratives forged from the American heartland. It follows, then, that over the course of eight albums, the younger McMurtry's carved a gritty, feisty, rough 'n' tumble sound that's documented lovers, losers, and those trying to find an elusive road to redemption. Imagine the unholy byproduct of a late-night, back-alley encounter among Steve Earle, Lou Reed, and the late Warren Zevon and you'll get some idea of the tangled, sardonic delivery McMurtry has purveyed for close to 20 years. His latest effort, the brilliant yet haunting Just Us Kids, is no exception; widely praised in all corners of the critical universe, it presents an arched view of a nation unraveled by war, injustice, and economic uncertainty, a harrowing series of songs about people desperate for some semblance of salvation. Whether McMurtry's feisty attitude will be tempered in the afterglow of a new administration remains to be seen, but for now anyway, he remains unbowed. He does Dad proud, sure, but more important, he gives voice to the voiceless and stirs the rest of us as well.