Premiere: James McMurtry, “If It Don’t Bleed”
BY PAUL ZOLLO
The new single from his upcoming album The Horses and The Hounds, coming in August
“Lyrically gritty, musically gutsy, go tell ‘em all- we need James McMurtry bringin’ us more.”
—Andrew Farrris, INXS
“James McMurtry may be the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation.”
“The ghost of Warren Zevon seems to be stomping around among the guitar tracks. Don’t know how he got in there. He never signed on for work for hire.”
From James McMurtry’s upcoming new album, his first in seven years, The Horses and the Hounds, we are happy to share this premiere for his newest single, a beacon song of endless energy, “If It Don’t Bleed.”
The album will be released on August 20 on New West records, and spotlights a seasoned songwriter in peak form as he turns toward reflection (“Vaquero”) and revelation (“Blackberry Winter”).
Asked about the origins of this song and its title, he said this:
“A cousin of mine, who has been to hell and back on cocaine once told me, `If it don’t bleed, it don’t matter.’ I don’t remember how that line became a song. I wrote it mostly while at the wheel of a rental van on a southeast tour. I would turn a verse over and over in my head as I drove and then write it down on the notes app when we got to the motel. “
The son of the author Larry McMurtry, James is one of Austin’s most beloved and critically acclaimed artists. This album reunites him with his Sugar Hill-years producer Ross Hogarth at Jackson Browne’s Groove Masters studio in Santa Monica.
McMurtry and Hogarth first worked together 30 years ago, when Hogarth was a recording engineer in the employ of John Mellencamp at Mellencamp’s own Belmont Studios near Bloomington, Indiana. Hogarth recorded McMurtry’s first two albums, Too Long in the Wasteland and Candyland, and later mixed McMurtry’s first self-produced album, Saint Mary of the Woods, for Sugar Hill Records.
The Horses and the Hounds will be McMurtry’s debut album on the Americana record label New West Records (Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Lucinda Williams, John Hiatt, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Buddy Miller, and dozens more).
“There’s a definite Los Angeles vibe to this record,” McMurtry says. “The ghost of Warren Zevon seems to be stomping around among the guitar tracks. Don’t know how he got in there. He never signed on for work for hire.”
His lauded storytelling shines in remarkable songs such as “Operation Never Mind” and “Ft. Walton Wake-Up Call” on The Horse and the Hounds. “James writes like he’s lived a lifetime,” said John Mellencamp back in 1989, when “Too Long in the Wasteland” hit the Billboard 200.
“James McMurtry is one of my very few favorite songwriters on Earth and these days he’s working at the top of his game,” says Americana all-star Jason Isbell. “He has that rare gift of being able to make a listener laugh out loud at one line and choke up at the next. I don’t think anybody writes better lyrics.”
McMurtry’s albums Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005) back the claim, each scoring endless critical praise. Childish Things spent six full weeks topping the Americana Music Radio chart in 2005 and 2006, and won the Americana Music Association’s Album of the Year, with “We Can’t Make It Here” being named the organization’s Song of the Year.
Other accolades include a 1996 Grammy nomination for Long Form Music Video for Where’d You Hide the Body and an American Indie Award for Best Americana Album for It Had to Happen (1997).
McMurtry tours year-round and consistently throws down unparalleled powerhouse performances, reflected in the release of two live discs: the universally lauded Live in Aught-Three, and 2009’s Live in Europe, which captured the McMurtry band’s first European tour and extraordinary live set.