James McMurtry writes songs with the intensity and flourish of a great fiction writer. Some may attribute this gift to being the son of author Larry McMurtry, or maybe like most of the best fiction writers, James McMurtry has a more acute ear and eye for the subtle realities of life – real life as lived by actual people in real situations, populating his lyrical landscapes and serving as a mirror image to people we have known or glimpsed peripherally in our own lives.
In his song Levelland,* James McMurtry masterfully punctuates his narrative with palpable imagery to recreate and cause you to long for a beautiful moment in time that has been tucked safely away in your memories – A time where a promise of an fulfilling future hung just out of reach, just beyond the boundaries of your own little world, whether those boundaries were situational or self-imposed; a world and a time where you were limited only by how much you could wish and dream.
Levelland takes you back to a time before twenty-four hour cable TV stations and electronic sensory overload accosted you from all directions and sources and became a personal and cultural distraction; a time when you could sit outside at night and be content that all was good in the world, when the sights, sounds, and smells of a summer or fall evening were more engaging and satisfying than anything cable TV or the Internet could deliver.
In Levelland, McMurtry paints a lyrical picture of a summer or fall night. Any native Texan, like McMurtry, knows how fleeting and beautiful summer and fall are in Texas. Unfortunately, like youth and innocence, these seasons slip through your fingers and disappear, and you are helpless to prevent their departure. You cling to their memory, and long for their return, hoping you will meet again as old friends able to seamlessly pick up where you left off, not too jaded by time and the cynicism of life.
In Levelland, McMurtry offers you a chance to revisit this moment on your own terms, at a time of your choosing. He shares the sights and sounds of this memory through almost tangible lyrical imagery. You can actually hear the marching bands whispering their carnival of sound and emotion on the night wind, as they echo the songs of your youth and celebrate with you a lost moment in time.
“Mama used to roll her hair
Back before the central air
We’d sit outside and watch the stars at night
She’s tell me to make a wish
I’d wish we both could fly
I don’t think she’s seen the sky
Since we got the satellite dish
I can hear the marching band
Doing the best they can to play
Smoke on the Water
And Joy to the World…”
*The songs and lyrics in this article are for educational and reference purposes only and are the property of the artists who created them.