James McMurtry: Indy interview outtakes

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James McMurtry
As a timely reminder that the much-acclaimed James McMurtry will be playing an intimate acoustic show at the Loft this Sunday, following are a few interview outtakes that didn’t make it into this week’s Indy feature story.

It’s probably not surprising that the writer of the incendiary “We Can’t Make It Here (Anymore)” is as eloquent, droll and provocative in conversation as he is in his lyrics. But while our interview topics ranged from Lou Reed to gun control, McMurtry held forth on a few other subjects that, due to limited space, didn’t make the print edition.

So here are a few bonus musings from McMurtry’s on his hometown Austin. The town is of course legendary among music fans for SXSW, Austin City Limits and, as the city’s official slogan puts it, being “The Live Capital of the World.”

In fact, you can catch McMurtry playing Austin’s famous Continental Club on any given Wednesday night that he and his band aren’t out on the road. But really, the Loft gig is a lot closer.

On the pros and cons of development: “The food has gotten better, the wine has gotten WAY better, and the skyline is different. There was a time there when they were building so fast that we’d leave on tour and the skyline would be different when we got back. There’s a lot of money coming in, which makes the cost of living go up. But you get something for your money.”

On chronic complainers: “I’ve lived here for over 20 years and nobody’s ever stopped bitching about how much better it used to be. And I just don’t know. I wasn’t here when it was better. It’s always been pretty good.”

On Austin’s future: “It’s an overgrown town, and I don’t think it can ever really be a city. It’s become more like a playground for the rich, you know? All of those condos they build downtown are vacant half the time, ‘cos the people that own them live out in the hill country on their high-fence ranches with their exotic game and all that stuff. So they come here when they want a little city life. But if you want a real city in Texas, go to Houston.”

On live music: “San Antonio has an old world vibe and they’ve always had a great music scene down there, with Doug Sahm and all that conjunto stuff. They’ve got serious music down there, but they don’t have a lot of clubs to play in. That’s the one thing in Austin, you’ve got at least 30 clubs who have music nightly. They don’t PAY great. But the Continental Club does us a world of good. Because there are so many travelers coming through, we get a different crowd every Wednesday. Some of them haven’t heard of us and don’t care, they just show up at the club because it’s been there since the ’50s and they’re staying across the street. So it’s like touring without having to leave town.”

Visit the Loft’s website for tickets and information on Sunday's show. Meanwhile, here's a video for "We Can't Make It Here (Anymore)" — all seven radio-friendly minutes of it — and some lyrics to tide you over until then.


"We Can’t Make It Here (Anymore)"
By James McMurtry

There’s a Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on his wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing and both hands free
No one’s paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget’s just stretched so thin
And now there’s more coming back from the Mideast war
We can’t make it here anymore

That big ol’ building was the textile mill that fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can’t make it here anymore

See those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They’re just gonna sit there ‘til they rot
‘Cause there’s nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There’s a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don’t come down here unless you’re looking to score
We can’t make it here anymore

The bar’s still open but man it’s slow
The tip jar’s light and the register’s low
The bartender don’t have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day
Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won’t pay for a roof, won’t pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far $5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one your stores
Bet you can’t make it here anymore

There’s a high school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromatA woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what’ll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? Live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it’s way too late to just say no
You can’t make it here anymore

Now I’m stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
‘ Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can’t make it here anymore

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in
Should I hate ‘em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They’ve never known want, they’ll never know need
Their shit don’t stink and their kids won’t bleed
Their kids won’t bleed in their damn little war
And we can’t make it here anymore

Will work for food will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
So let ‘em eat jellybeans let ‘em eat cake
Let ‘em eat shit, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can’t make it here anymore

So that’s how it is, that’s what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper, read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind if you’re listening at all
Get out of that limo, look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone tell us all why

In Dayton Ohio or Portland Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That’s done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There’s rats in the alley and trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can’t make it here anymore

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