Advice (and music) for the Sleep-deprived and Overcaffeinated

April 7th, 2011  |  Published in Music

AUSTIN, TX - April 6: James McMurtry performs in concert. Photographed at The Continental Club in Austin, Texas on April 6, 2011. (Photo by Darren Carroll) (Darren Carroll)

So what do you do if you live in Austin, having just made the four-hour drive home from an assignment in Dallas, barreling down I-35 in the dark of night, wired on an overabundance of caffeine from the dozen or so Starbucks along the route, and have consequently arrived home at 11 p.m. with neither the inclination nor the ability to go to sleep? You ask yourself what day of the week it is.

If it’s Wednesday, you’re in luck. Because it means that James McMurtry is in residence at the Continental Club, doing his weekly, standing midnight show. Unload the cases of gear from the truck (but grab an 85 1.2* just for the hell of it–it’s dark in there), and then head back downtown. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just hit 40, feel like an old fart, and haven’t seen the other side of midnight since, well, the last time you saw McMurtry in the red-curtained sardine can on South Congress Avenue a couple of months ago. This time there’s plenty of room for everyone, with the mix of a hundred or so people (a light crowd for once, but so much the better) as eclectic as the music you’re about to hear.

AUSTIN, TX - April 6: James McMurtry performs in concert. Photographed at The Continental Club in Austin, Texas on April 6, 2011. (Photo by Darren Carroll) (Darren Carroll)It’s not exactly country, it’s not exactly roots-rock, it’s not specifically Americana or explicitly Texan or anything. But at the same time, it’s all of the above. It’s fun, yet unassuming. It’s serious, and it’s more than a little intellectual, played by a master wordsmith** who’s not too shabby with that guitar in his hands, either. Fork over eight bucks for the cover, five more for a Shiner Bock (and that’s only with a generous tip), and settle in for a two-hour set ranging from his hard-driving, meth-cooking, gun-toting, sub-prime lending staple “Choctaw Bingo” (which was at one point deconstructed to within an inch of its life by Ron Rosenbaum in Slate, with the recommendation that it should be our new national anthem) to an almost tear-jerking solo rendition of “Ruby and Carlos.” It’s as spontaneous as the game-time decision that got you here in the first place, with set-lists that change up from week to week and even the supporting cast shifting around (last time it was two over-served young(ish) ladies ad-libbing hip-grinding roles of the second-cousins in “Choctaw Bingo;” this time Harmony Kelly on the bass was an unexpected, fantastic addition). But the vibe is still there, and that never goes away. It’s the kind of thing, in the kind of place, with the kind of guy, that makes Austin what it is.

AUSTIN, TX - April 6: James McMurtry performs in concert. Photographed at The Continental Club in Austin, Texas on April 6, 2011. (Photo by Darren Carroll) (Darren Carroll)



*That’s photo-geek speak for a Canon 85mm f1.2L lens which, coupled with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, was used to make all of the images above.

**Yes, it runs in the family. Larry is his father.

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