First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2005, Volume 12, #10
Written by John Metzger
Although James McMutry opted to decorate with bluegrass accoutrements several of the tracks on his latest effort Childish Things, his material remains as hard-hitting and edgy as ever. Indeed, the fiddle accompaniment that adorns See the Elephant and Memorial Day packs as much bite as the stinging guitars and the thunderous roar of his rhythm section, which is, of course, precisely the point. Full of pent-up frustration and anger, the music matches the intensity of his lyrics as he turns everything from dysfunctional relationships to life in middle America into fodder for his poetic musings. Thematically, the album is hinged to a loss of both innocence and faith ó so much so that one has to wonder if, perhaps, the circus animal to which McMurtry refers on the opening tune See the Elephant isnít really a literal representation but rather a figurative depiction of what he views as the obstacle that has prevented the resolution of the problems plaguing his homeland: organized religion, specifically the "Christian right." After all, itís certainly no accident that what follows is the title track, which utilizes a passage from the Bible as a means of conveying the concept that one sets aside his immature beliefs as he gains experience from living in the world. Elsewhere, he offers the overtly political diatribe We Canít Make It Here ó which essentially calls compassionate conservatism a smokescreen for adding to the coffers of the rich despite the detrimental impact that it has upon those who are less fortunate ó and on Six Year Drought, he draws a vivid portrait of a run-down town from the perspective of a drifter. Sung with a deadpan delivery, McMurtry laces the tunes on Childish Things with an air of weary resignation, which only serves to enhance the penetrating potency of his words, and when separated from the characters that reside within its borders, the outing expresses the disappointment that resonates within a man who has come face-to-face with the reality of life in these United States. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
Childish Things is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box