Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

James McMurtry: Just Us Kids [Lightning Rod, 2008]
The two fierce anti-Bush songs are rhetorical in a way the career-changing "We Can't Make It Here" wasn't: "Cheney's Toy," for the universal soldier, and "Ruins of the Realm," which ends up dancing in the ruins of the German Reich itself. Narrative he reserves for the yarns and portraits he's been hawking for two decades. The most detailed chronicles the love that slips away between a young musician and an older horsewoman. But the meth addict who loses her kids, the unsolved speedboat accident, the one-night stand that leaves the singer "lookin' through the hole in the bottom of my heart"? All of them bite and hold, in part because the music is fierce. Live, McMurtry can still be way too strophic and trad. But he's never made an album so loud or hard. Righteous rage can do that to a person. Like I said, career-changing. A-