Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

James McMurtry: Too Long in the Wasteland [Columbia, 1989]
He's gonna be a prestige item, just you wait--quality singer-songwriter from the heartland-wasteland. He's been there, he's still there, has his own RFD box on the back cover lest you doubt his authenticity. Also an eye for detail, perhaps from his novelist dad, and John Mellencamp showing him around the studio. I enjoy his sketches, their weary women especially. But like so many singer-songwriters and so many local-colorists, he tends to a soft fatalism, especially when he tries a big statement: the metametaphorical "Painting by Numbers," or "I'm Not From Here," which notes that we've been picking up and leaving "since the stone age." No way a simple quality singer-songwriter can change that, now is there? B+