James McMurtry's Political Anthem Causing Stir Across the Nation


Sign in to view read count
AUSTIN, Texas -- “We Can't Make it Here," James McMurtry's musical commentary on the current state of the union, is creating a stir with critics, radio programmers, and politicians around the country. “I've always been a little put off by activists. So you know it's a dire situation when I have to become one myself," says McMurtry. McMurtry made the song available as a free download on his website during the 2004 presidential election. The response to the track was immediate, overwhelming, and prompted McMurtry to set up an online discussion board on his website where fans could share their thoughts on the song. Author Stephen King named “We Can't Make It Here" the number two single of the year in his influential Entertainment Weekly music column (Childish Things was his number two album of the year). Robert Christgau, the “Dean of American Rock Critics," also declared it the second best single of the year in The Village Voice's Annual Pazz and Jop Poll. Entertainment Weekly declared it the “protest song of the decade." The disc became available for the first time without FCC censorship on McMurtry's latest album, 2005's Childish Things.

Radio stations across the country are making a bold move by adding the single (which clocks in at over seven minutes) into regular rotation. “I can honestly say we have received more calls either asking who that was or saying 'that was really great' than any song we're playing right now, including songs by superstars like Coldplay and U2," says Lin Brehmer from Chicago's influential rock station WXRT-FM. KGSR-FM / Austin, WFPK-FM / Louisville, KRVM-FM / Eugene, WYEP-FM / Pittsburgh, WKIT-FM / Bangor, KUT-FM / Austin, KRSH-FM / Santa Rosa, and XM Satellite Radio are some of the other radio stations to add the single. Sensing the buzz around the song, Quil Lawrence from Public Radio International's syndicated news magazine The World featured an interview with McMurtry in his piece on wartime music. On the program, Lawrence contrasted anti-war anthems like “We Can't Make It Here" with pro-war anthems like Clint Black's “Iraq and Roll."

Since the release of the song, McMurtry has slowly entered the world of political activism. Congressman Bernie Sanders (Ind.-VT) is using “We Can't Make It Here" in his Senate campaign. “Whether you're a veteran, a worker who has lost a job due to outsourcing, or a young mother trying to get by, this song tells it like it is," says Sanders. McMurtry performed at the national Veterans for Peace convention and Farm Aid, and in August he joined Steve Earle for a free concert at Cindy Sheehan's anti-war demonstration outside George W. Bush's home in Crawford, TX. (NOTE: McMurtry is one of the artists the White House confirmed is on President Bush's iPod.)

James McMurtry is the son of acclaimed author Larry McMurtry, who wrote Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment, and co-wrote the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain. James McMurtry co-wrote “Water Walking Jesus," which was sung by Jake Gyllenhaal's character in Brokeback Mountain. McMurtry grew up on a steady diet of Johnny Cash and Roy Acuff records. His first album, released in 1989, was produced by John Mellencamp and marked the beginning of a series of critically acclaimed projects for Columbia and Sugar Hill. In 2003, McMurtry joined forces with Houston's Compadre Records and together they released the universally lauded Live in Aught-Three. 2005's Childish Things garnered some of the highest critical praise of McMurtry's career and spent six weeks at number one on R&R's Americana Music Radio Chart in 2005 and 2006.

On March 17, James McMurtry will headline the Americana Music Association's official SXSW showcase at Antone's in Austin. McMurtry and The Heartless Bastards will tour the U.S. for the remainder of 2006 in support of Childish Things.


“As he rhymes with the adeptness of a rapper and the passion of a doomsday evangelist, McMurtry's insistent diatribe leaves you no alternative but to pay attention." - THE WASHINGTON POST

“McMurtry's unsettling, brutally eloquent protest song 'We Can't Make It Here' depicts a blue-collar worker crushed from the outside by the shifting forces of a changing economy and eaten from within by bitterness and rage." - USA TODAY

“Ultimately . . .'We Can't Make It Here' is about more than the White House's failures with regard to one mother or one crisis. It is about the dismissal of thousands of neglected communities and millions of neglected Americans who -- without the benefit of media attention -- regularly echo the blunt closing cry of McMurtry's song for attention to the working poor who have lost their jobs to fair trade and federal neglect and their children to a war founded on lies." - THE NATION.com

“'We Can't Make It Here' is a seven-minute state-of-the-union mantra that looks at the Bush claims of economic recovery and finds nothing but smoke and mirrors." - TEXAS MONTHLY

This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz Publicity.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

Visit Website

For interview requests or more information contact .

Post a comment


Jazz News

All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.