Let's face it. Most singer-songwriter music is lukewarm high school poetry without the hooks and energy that seem to make the lukewarm high school poetry you get with Fall Out Boy or even Ashlee Simpson that much easier to swallow. Then, there's James McMurtry. It's not that the sound of his music is strikingly different from your average NPR fare, recalling the rootsier side of Mellencamp. What sets the man apart is his lyrical approach. His cinematic attention to detail makes you feel like just another character inside his songs, whether begging to go to the traveling show or being haunted by the ghost of childhood dreams traded in for a comfortable chair. The deepest cut on Childish Things, McMurtry's latest on Compadre Records, is the take-no-prisoners protest rock of "We Can't Make It Here," in which he sizes up the human cost of a nation run by CEOs and their flunkies in government with "They've never known want, they'll never know need/Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed/Their kids won't bleed in their damn little war/And we can't make it here anymore."
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