On Wednesday April 28th following the Great Steamboat Race, Texas singer-songwriter James McMurtry will headline The Derby Festival Wednesday Evening Concert at Kroger's Fest-A-Ville on the Waterfront. The show, which starts at 7:00 P.M. and takes place on the Great Lawn, is free and open to the public with a 2010 Pegasus Pin. Will Hoge, a respected and successful singer-songwriter in his own right and former Western Kentucky University student, will open the show, in support of his latest release The Wreckage.
The concert is sponsored by WFPK, Louisville's most eclectic radio station. According to program director Stacy Owen, "James is an all-time favorite of WFPK and the fact that his next visit is part of an official Derby event makes it all that more exciting." If the number of times Choctaw Bingo is requested on WFPK's Friday morning's all request show is any indication of McMurtry's local following, the show should be packed.
McMurtry released his last studio album, Just Us Kids, in 2008 to excellent reviews, and the disc landed on the year-end best-of lists of numerous publications, including Entertainment Weekly and USA Today. He released a live set, Live in Europe last year. McMurtry is an impressive and concrete songwriter, a keen observer of his life and times, political, unapologetic, and sincere. He's bound to have inherited some of his literary skills from his father, famed novelist Larry McMurtry. And keeping with the world of literature, Stephen King is one of the younger McMurtry's most famous fans.
Back in 1992, McMurtry was also part of a one-song super group called Buzzin' Cousins that consisted of John Mellencamp, Joe Ely, John Prince, Dwight Yoakum, and McMurtry. The song Sweet Suzanne appeared on the soundtrack to the underrated film Falling From Grace, which starred Mellencamp and was written by Larry McMurtry.
Perhaps it seems more conventional to have a party, feel good band perform at a Kentucky Derby Festival event - maybe a Kool and the Gang or K.C and the Sunshine Band type of act. But bringing McMurtry in is a fine and unexpected move. There is no Celebration or Boogie Shoes sort of material in his set list, and song topics like Gulf War Syndrome, meth addiction, and poverty don't exactly spell "party." But as McMurtry said in an interview with CountryMusicPride.com, "Right now, it's (playing live) the only way to keep a music career going. You pretty much have to tour." And tour McMurtry does often, both in the US and in Europe. So, you can expect a polished show next week with a touch of bar band vigor.
He's a seasoned veteran more so than a grizzled one. And while his material isn't exactly Up With People in nature, he is sure to make you think while you party on the waterfront next Wednesday.