McMurtry on Trump, Dweezil and the Deer

McMurtry on Trump, Dweezil and the Deer

Texas troubadour James McMurtry plays a sold-out show at the Durango Arts Center at 8 p.m., Sat., Aug. 12.

Chris Aaland - 08/10/2017

Texas troubadours, in particular, are craftsmen when it comes to turning the mundane into art. Ernest Tubb and Cindy Walker were among the first to succeed. Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt took their cues and penned songs that rival Dylan’s best work.

Perhaps the best of the latest crop of Texas troubadours is James McMurtry, who plays a sold-out show at the Durango Arts Center at 8 p.m. Saturday. The author of such masterworks as “Choctaw Bingo,”

“Memorial Day” and “Levelland,” McMurtry was destined for a lyrical life. The son of an English professor mother and novelist father (Larry McMurtry wrote Terms of Endearment and Lonesome Dove) young James was given a guitar at the age of 7 andgravitated to the songwriting of fellow Texas native Kris Kristofferson. 

I spoke with McMurtry by phone a couple weeks ago, the morning after the Senate’s latest repeal of the Affordable Care Act was defeated. After reading some of his recent interviews since the 2016 presidential election, it seems he truly has his finger on the pulse of rural America. He summed up the current state of political affairs in a few sentences.

“Trump can stick his foot in his mouth over and over, and it doesn’t matter,” McMurtry said. “The thing is, we’ve already been trained for 30 years to hate Hillary Clinton. That training started up when Bill Clinton was in the White House. She went after the health care thing and the Republicans know – they just now found out in a big way – that if they ever let any kind of socialized medi- cine happen, that was going to be the end of their party. We’re see- ing the beginning of the end of it now, it looks like.”

Prior to the election, McMurtry traveled the South and Midwest and noticed that Trump signs and bumper stickers drastically outnumbered Clinton’s. He knew that the Democratic nominee’s infamous “basket of deplorables” comment would come back to bite her.

“That was beyond stupid,” he said. “I couldn’t believe that. She did exactly what Trump turned around and later did himself. She acted like she was only running for president for half the country. Trump makes no bones about that. He’s the president now.”

McMurtry noted that getting voter turnout is critical. “I don’t know why it’s harder to get (Democrats) to vote. Angry people vote,” he said, adding that turnout is the key. “If you look at the numbers in recent years, Bush won two squeaker elections on very low turnout. Obama won huge – as close as we’ve had in a landslide anymore – on his first election, and still won by a re- spectable margin on his second one on unprecedented large turnouts. That says to me there’s more people out there who want to vote Democratic, but it’s hard to motivate them. For one thing, it’s hard to get the black vote. Eight years after Obama they’re still getting shot at regular traffic stops. What do they care who’s president?”

If you’re one of the lucky couple of hundred of folks who bought tickets to McMurtry’s show, you’ll certainly get some more of his insight this weekend. You’ll also get your fill of McMurtry’s underrated guitar playing. 

Speaking of guitar pyrotechnics, Dweezil Zappa brings “50 Years of Frank: Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever the F@%k He Wants – The Cease and Desist Tour” to the Community Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Thurs., Aug. 10). For the last 10 years, Dweezil has toured behind “Zappa Plays Zappa,” but following the death of his mother, siblings Ahmet and Diva were each given 30 percent control of the Zappa Family Trust. Dweezil and sister Moon Unit each received 20 percent. Ahmet, the trustee, banned Dweezil from using the “Zappa Plays Zappa” moniker. It’s a shame: Dweezil is every bit the guitarist his father was, having 

trained under the tutelage of Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen at an early age. Expect music to range from the Mothers of Invention’s 1966 debut, “Freak Out!” to later Zappa classics.

New York City ska/reggae fusion band the Big Takeover will surely get the Balcony Backstage hopping at 9:30 p.m. Friday. Led by powerhouse Jamaican-born singer/songwriter NeeNee Rushie, the group is promot- ing its latest album, “Silly Girl,” on its new tour.

The Deer, a transcendental folk, psychotropic surf-country band from Austin, Texas, plays the Balcony Backstage at 9 p.m. Saturday. The group counts alumni of such Austin bands as MilkDrive and The Big Hit among its members.

Daphne Willis, a Nashville songwriter whose music is tough to categorize, takes the stage of the Community Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. An emotive singer, Willis draws from such varied genres as roots-rock, pop, hip-hop and electronic dance music and counts Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson and Elvis Costello among the artists who have influenced her. Her debut EP a decade ago caught the attention of Vanguard Records honcho Kevin Welk, who inked her to a recording contract instantly.

The La Plata County Fair welcomes Texas country singer Kyle Park at 6:30 p.m. Friday to the Fairgrounds. Born and raised out- side of Austin, Park started playing country venues when he was 15 years old. He’s charted 10 singles on the Texas Music Chart, including two No. 1s: “The Night Is Young” and “True Love.” Known for clever songwriting and guitar-heavy tracks, he’s reaped national coverage from Taste of Country, Guitar World and the website, “All Music,” among others. He’s also shared the stage with George Strait, the Band Perry, Clint Black and others.

Elsewhere: Hello Dollface plays tonight’s Ska-B-Q at 5 p.m. in Bodo Park; the Pete Giuliani Band cooks up James Ranch on Burger & a Band Night at 5 today; the Million Dollar Highway Band grooves at the Three Springs Concerts in the Plaza series at 5:30 tonight; the Lawn Chair Kings brave the Balcony during monsoon season at 5:30 p.m. Friday; the Stillhouse Junkies booze it up at Durango Craft Spirits at 7 p.m. Friday; the Kirk James Blues Band returns to the Balcony at 5:30 p.m. Saturday; the Black Velvet Duo works the Sky Ute Casino Resort at 6 p.m. Saturday; Hello Dollface performs at the Cyprus Cafe? at 6 p.m. Sun- day; and the Black Velvet trio plays the Rochester Hotel’s nonprofit fundraising series at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Cooks that crystal meth because the shine don’t sell? Email me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net

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