“James McMurtry may be the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation,” author Stephen King has said. King should know great writing when he sees it, even if that writing comes in the form of relatively short-story songs rather than elaborate novels. McMurtry, who has great writing in his blood – his father is author Larry McMurtry – has spent the past 25 years composing character sketches with an emotional resonance more on the level of a Raymond Carver short story than a conventional pop song. It’s no surprise that King fell hard for McMurtry’s writing.
An inspired purveyor of Americana long before the term was being applied to American roots music, McMurtry released his debut, “Too Long in the Wasteland,” just as the 1980s were heaving their last gasp, and set off down a dirt road that led him to the creation of a string of roots-rock recordings that detail the American psyche right down to the most minute detail.
With startling consistency, McMurtry delivered those details through a pen that favors the sardonic, the Romantic and the poetic in equal measure. Like Cormac McCarthy with a guitar and a world-weary attitude, McMurtry dropped a stream of killers – “Candyland,” “Where’d You Hide the Body?” “Just Us Kids,” “Childish Things” among them – as the decades rolled by, in the process earning himself a cult of loyal followers and a bucket-load of plaudits from his peers and critics like Bob Lefsetz, who assertively proclaimed McMurtry’s elegaic “We Can’t Make It Here” the “Song of the Decade.”
McMurty, who has hopped around between independent record labels like a jackrabbit over the years, just found a new home with Los Angeles indie imprint Complicated Game, and has been tracking for a forthcoming release. In the meantime, he’s doing what he’s always done – touring like a madman with his long-serving band, and mixing some new songs with weathered and well-loved ones.
McMurtry will make a rare area appearance at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Sportsmen’s Tavern (326 Amherst St.). The Bottle Rockets share the bill. Tickets are $25. Visit www.sportsmens- tavern.net.
Energy of sound
Percussionist Ravi Padmanabha has been radically integrating Eastern and Western musical traditions in Buffalo for years now. Whether manning the drum kit with his Family Funktion & the Sitar Jams, working in various formats with saxophonist Steve Baczkowski, or playing the Indian tabla in a variety of ensemble formats, Padmanabha has proven himself to be a consistently dynamic, inventive and adventurous instrumentalist and composer. He is, in the current musician-friendly vernacular, simply a beast of a player.
Padmanabha’s latest project is one of his most adventurous yet, and has resulted in the release of one of the strongest instrumental recordings to emerge from Buffalo in a good, long while. My Nada Brahma is a Padmanabha-led quartet that performs pieces blending Eastern classical and folk traditions with Western-based improvisation. Founded on the belief, according to Padmanabha, “that the universe was created from the energy of sound,” My Nada Brahma benefits from the contributions of regional jazz and fusion-based virtuosos Ron LoCurto (guitar), Michael McNeil (harmonium) and David Adamczyk (violin), all of whom contribute on the new “Mission to Mt. Everest” album. Oh, and what an album it is.
Fans of John McLaughlin’s Shakti will take to this riveting display of dazzling virtuosity and compositional complexity like a drunk to his drink, but anyone at all interested in modern instrumental music should find much to love here. “Mt. Everest” represents that rare occasion when the technically brilliant and the emotionally compelling meet.
A release party for both the vinyl and CD editions of “Mission to Mt. Everest” takes place in Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center (341 Delaware Ave.) at 8 p.m. next Thursday. Admission at the door will be $5. Copies of the album will be sold for $10 on CD and $20 for vinyl.
Hot on the heels of Bob Dylan’s 73rd birthday last week, one of the more interesting collaborations in Dylan’s career will be celebrated by three local bands at 8 p.m. Friday in the Tralf Music Hall (622 Main St.).
“An Evening of Dylan & the Dead” honors the Grateful Dead/Dylan intermingling that left many scratching their heads in the 1980s, but has stood the test of time rather well. Workingman’s Dead, the Robert Zimmerman Philharmonic and Middlemen will share the bill. Tickets are $10 advance (box office, Ticketmaster) and $12 at the door.