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Curtis McMurtry
10
7/10

Curtis McMurtry

Sounds Like: Barbed late-night ruminations on wicked crimes of the heart, sung with a sly smile

For Fans of: Lyle Lovett, Leonard Cohen, unapologetic Americana

Why You Should Pay Attention: The 26-year-old Texan has impeccable bonafides – he's the son of arguably America's greatest slice-of-life songwriter James McMurtry, and was mentored and championed by the late great Guy Clark. But the songs on McMurtry's new album The Hornet's Nest might actually take more inspiration from his novelist-screenwriter grandfather Larry McMurtry: They're cinematic vignettes, with elegantly atmospheric arrangements featuring Diana Burgess' cello and Nathan Calzada's trumpet. McMurtry croons pointed poison-pen letters, in which his first-person narrators are unafraid to let their bad-guy flags fly. Not that any of these 13 songs actually played out in his real life.

He Says: "If all my songs were straight autobiographical stuff that's happened to me, that would be really boring. So I make a lot of stuff up. I definitely think of characters in songs as parts that I play, and it's fun to play horrible people onstage – especially villains. They always get the best monologues."

Hear for Yourself: "Wrong Inflection" finds McMurtry and Burgess icily bantering blame for a cooling romance like it was a tennis match, punctuated by trumpet lines from Calzada that sound like sneers rendered as music. D.M.