Arts & Culture

Lone Star Sounds: New music from James McMurtry

James McMurtry
James McMurtry High Road Touring

Singer-songwriters like James McMurtry often hide in plain sight.

The Fort Worth-born troubadour has spent the better part of 26 years recording, touring and releasing one critically acclaimed, if commercially under-appreciated, album after another.

He’s back with Complicated Game, his first studio effort in seven years, picking up where he left off on 2008’s Just Us Kids. “I know a thing or two now,” McMurtry sings on You Got to Me, a subtle but definitive declaration.

McMurtry, son of legendary novelist Larry McMurtry, intuitively understands the value of details, which populate his songs of broken love and hard lives. Often touted as a political firebrand, McMurtry’s focus on Game is more personal, as evidenced by the bruised beauty of These Things I’ve Come to Know and She Loves Me.

Produced by C.C. Adcock and Mike Napolitano, Game also features another testament to McMurtry’s musical stature: the glittering guest list. Derek Trucks, Benmont Tench and Doyle Bramhall II contribute to these dozen tracks, providing texture and depth for the sharply observed songs.

McMurtry will celebrate Game’s release Friday at Dallas’ Granada Theater, with support from Curtis McMurtry and Bryan Hayes.

Online: jamesmcmurtry.com

Sad Cops, ‘Best Friends’ EP

Thanks to a tip from local blog Central Track, I stumbled across Coppell teen Grayson Harris, who, along with Taylor Goode and Christian Meyer, records lush, morose pop songs as Sad Cops.

With just five songs, the trio leaves a tremendous impression, layering ghostly harmonies over echoing guitars and drums. What elevates this self-described “tweemo” (twee and emo) is the incisive lyrics: “Let’s be best friends/Until we’re 18/And then we’ll split up/Play it safely,” goes one piercing line from the title track.

An act to keep close watch on.

Online: sadcopstx.bandcamp.com

Rangers, ‘Session Man’

Dallas musician Joe Knight’s music, which he’s steadily releasing under the Rangers moniker, features no vocals, but it still speaks volumes.

Recorded between May and November of last year, the rock and country impulses found on the instrumentals comprising Session Man are given a unique twist, with digital effects smearing and enhancing the melodies. (This release follows 2011’s Pan Am Stories and odds-and-sods collections like last year’s Early Electrics.)

From the gentle cascade of the title track to the languourous expanse of Nile’s Junk, Knight displays a captivating facility with mood.

Online: rangers1.bandcamp.com

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713

Twitter: @prestonjones

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