Complicated Game Record Review
James McMurtryComplicated Game (Complicated Game)
Heightened by the long gap between Complicated Game and his previous studio album, 2008 breakthrough Just Us Kids, James McMurtry returns like a prophet wringing truth from the American soul. The longtime Austinite once again captures the tenor and time of our culture, weaving narratives that grapple with complex realities in the simplest moments, while painting characters with novelistic vividness. Burrowing more intimate and personal, lines like, "We grew up hard, and our children don't know what that means" from opener "Copper Canteen" cut with variegated meanings belied by their lucidity. Likewise, the bright banjo backing of "Ain't Got a Place" revels in a restlessness amid its dislocation, and the picking on "Deaver's Crossing" ambles with a classic bluegrass touch. "You Got to Me," "She Loves Me," and "These Things I've Come to Know" all turn inward with an awareness borne in maturity and connection. Oddly, only electric, aggressive lead single "How'm I Gonna Find You Now" stumbles, never quite meshing rapid-fire radio-readiness with McMurtry's wordplay. Still, "South Dakota" and "Long Island Sound" show off McMurtry at his best, the latter ringing a communal bar sing-along in toast to the triumphs and toils of life. When times are hard, McMurtry's pen presses harder.