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James McMurtry - Saint Mary Of The Woods (2002)

Saint Mary is a mature, refined album of diverse, sometimes humorous, sometimes gloomy portraits. Granted, they’re studio portraits, for good or ill. The elegiac title track, for example, portrays a shattered diva (”Where are you going/Brandy on your breath/Bottle’s open, spilled across the desk/Snifter’s broken, smashed against the wall”) from a literary distance: McMurtry’s slightly hangdog baritone and the shimmering, Pro Tooled setting keep the listener out of harm’s way. The fuzzed-up “Lobo Town” cuts to the diagnosis right off the bat (”Grand Daddy’s good name/Fits like a shackle and a chain”) and then catalogs the sickness of a drugged-up rich boy with a 2/4 beat that keeps things moving along as gracefully as McMurtry’s narrative skill. It’s worth noting that McMurtry seldom bothers to sing; his metier is a Lou Reed-ish patter that hits a deadpan precision. He doesn’t sound as if he doesn’t believe the stories he tells–which is probably why they’re so easy to enjoy. Even when he rhapsodizes about a pa...
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