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McMurtry At Last

Okay, so last time I had just gone over why we had come all the way to Santa Fe to catch the performance of a musician who lives right down the way from us here in Texas. It was

Anyway, it was getting on, so we picked up our folding chairs (remember them) and I called Lyft. A few minutes later a car appeared and a pleasant driver conveyed us to the general area. He let us out near the La Fonda Hotel and said that when we were ready to come back, this would probably be the best place to wait. It was an easy drop-off and pick-up point.

(Actually, the La Fonda itself is an important part of Santa Fe’s story, and, in a strange way, of my own. And, someday, I’ll write about it in greater detail. But not right now.  I’m eager to ...finally!...get to the concert.)

Anyway, we exited the car and collected ourselves and our chairs. The Plaza was near there. You just basically cross the street and you’re in it. So we did so now. We had arrived early because we figured the crowd was going to be huge and we wanted to find a prime spot to set up our chairs and wait.

The chairs...I should explain the chairs. There aren’t a whole lot of places to sit in the Plaza, and we are no longer at the stage in our lives where sitting legged on a concrete surface is all that appealing. Particularly as you then face the interesting problem of ...well...getting back up again. I’m thinking of investing in a portable crane. Or maybe a fork-lift truck. Probably the latter because you could say “oh, Fork it!” each time you couldn’t get the dang knees working again. Though how I would arrange to get it into the overhead baggage bin while flying, I cannot say.

 Shortly after we arrived, the opening act began. It was Bill Hearne, who has been at the heart of Alternative and Western Folk music for years. He, and his late wife Bonnie, were part of Austin’s music scene back when it was just getting started. They helped put Austin on the map as a venue. Then, they settled in Santa Fe, where they became fixtures. If you know of Santa Fe as a music scene, then it is partly because of them.(1)

As I say, Bonnie passed on a while back, and Bill’s getting on in years a bit, but he’s still going strong, and he’s very talented, and so his performance was excellent.

Shortly after Hearne’s set, McMurtry came on stage. He was excellent, as he always is. He did several pieces, both old and new, and some from his latest album, “The Horses and The Hounds.” Definitely worth hearing, btw. Give it a listen.(2)

About the photos: Two today, and, surprisingly, they both have to do with the story at hand. First, here’s a ouctyre of Martha as we were waiting for the music to begin. The blue cloth is a “snap” cooling towel. You wet it and then, well, you snap it. Supposed to keep you cool in hot weather.

I remember, too, that night he seemed particularly political to me. Several of his songs that night addressed the issues of being poor and working class in an age which has increasingly little use for people who are either of those things. He has a particular sympathy for veterans, returning home from foreign wars (fought mostly for oil) only to find that they are ignored or abandoned back in the States.

Oh, and btw, we did manage at one point to get close enough to the stage to take a few pictures of him. Martha got some excellent photos of him. I, alas, didn’t. My snaps just made him resemble a sunburned lunatic...which he doesn’t look at all like in real life.

Anyway, we had a great time. Then, rather to our amazement, we found that it had somehow gotten dark and that the concert was coming to an end. Naturally, the crowd applauded wildly, so he came back to do an encore. Specifically, he did a song I’d not heard before, “"State Of The Union,” in which the speaker tells us that “My brother's a fascist/Lives in Palacios,” who “...don't like the Muslims, he don't like the Jews/He don't like the Blacks and he don't trust the news...” (3)

The song concludes with the speaker sadly acknowledging that the level of estrangement between his brother and himself is now “the state of the union, I guess.”

Indeed, so...

Second, here’s a shot of the crowd at the concert. 

The crowd gradually dispersed and we made our way to the La Fonda. We used the restrooms there, found a place to sit in the lobby, and I called for a Lyft/Uber. It was a  good thing that the lobby was comfortable, because it was late by then, and the closest ride-share was quite a ways away. We cruised our phones, talked about the concert, and waited.

And just then it struck me. One of the reasons we like McMurtry’s music so much...

Is that it is the antithesis of mainstream, commercial Country and Western music as it is at the moment. He is, in fact, the anti-Country and Western star.

Which I’ll explain next time.

More to come.


1. Bill Hearne’s webpage is here:

2. James McMurtry’s webpage has links to it and all his other albums here:

You can also see him singing it in several places on Youtube. Here’s one such:

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