His dad, novelist Larry McMurtry, bought him his first guitar when he was 7, and his mother, an English professor, taught him how to play it, but even so, the acorn resides close to the tree. James McMurtry's country-tinged roots rock is keyed to his facility with words, his insights into the human heart, and the short-story economy with which he delivers them. Sonically, the folk-blues shuffles and bar-rock balladeering McMurtry relies on aren't particularly inventive, but are redeemed largely by the dint of his storytelling gift. In fact, the nondescript style dovetails with McMurtry's deadpan, observational lyrics and speak-sung croon (reminiscent of Warren Zevon) to create the easygoing air of a grizzled old storyteller sharing age-old wisdom around the campfire. His September release, Childish Things, includes the searing political indictment "We Can't Make It Here," taking up for the dispossessed who've lost sight of the American dream -- much like fellow Texan Townes Van Zandt -- while assailing the Iraq war and the outsourcing of Wal-Mart merchandise.