Where’d You Hide The Body

James McMurtry

Sony, 1995


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


One of the pillars of Texan Americana, James McMurtry has been presenting his particular wry, sad, sardonic story-songs for almost as long as his late father wrote brilliant novels. As such, it’s hard to remember when he was still a beginner, still a young voice in the world of smoky bars and twisted family reunions.

Where’d You Hide The Body was his third full-length release, and it shows a young man starting to hit his stride but still making occasional missteps. Discovered by John Mellencamp in 1987, McMurtry scored a modest hit with his debut album my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Too Long In The Wasteland, but he has never received the adulation and commercial success one might expect, which is a shame.

First and foremost, I want to point out that McMurtry is a pretty damned fine guitarist. He doesn’t get a lot of repute for this, but his acoustic work is almost always perfectly matched to the song and the style; while he’s not flashy, he’s solid. The same can be said for his voice; expressive, gentle, but often dry as West Texas in August. He has the ability to project the appropriate emotion for the song… not as common an ability as one would think.

The problem here is that this is a tale of two sides. (Remember sides? Wait, vinyl is coming back, people know what sides are. Anyway.)

The first seven tracks are amazing. “Rachel’s Song” may be my vote for the best storytelling in music ever. “Iolanthe” is a thumping, rollicking tune that’s almost fun. (McMurtry is not a big fan of fun; even “Choctaw Bingo” from St Mary Of The Woods has a massive dark underbelly). “Levelland” is both description and indictment; its sepia-toned look at “flyover country” would be a theme woven through all of McMurtry’s work.

The problem is the last six tracks. With the exception of rocker “Rayolight,” the energy level drops badly. While McMurtry is a good-to-great guitarist, the instrumental “Late Norther” does no service to the album as a whole.

But in the end, this album hangs on the solid gold hook of “Rachel’s Song.” I cannot, in good conscience, give this album lower than a

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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