[ ]   [ ]   [ ]                        [ ]      [ ]   [ ]
James McMurtry — Levelland (live)
Album: Live In Aught-Three
Avg rating:
6.4

Your rating:
Total ratings: 1024









Released: 2004
Length: 5:27
Plays (last 30 days): 0
Flatter than a table top
Makes you wonder why they stopped here
Wagon must have lost a wheel
Or they lacked ambition one

In the great migration west
Separated from the rest
Though they might have tried their best
They never caught the sun

So they sunk some roots down in this dirt
To keep from blowin' off the earth
Built a town right here
When the dust had all but cleared

They called it Levelland
Levelland
Levelland

Grand dad grew the dry land wheat
Stood on his own two feet
His mind got incomplete
And they put him in a home

Daddy's cotton grows so high
Sucks the water table dry
His rolling sprinklers circle back
Bleeding it to the bone

And I won't be here when it comes the day
It all dries up and blows away
I'd hang around just to see
But they never had much use for me

In Levelland
They don't understand me
In Levelland

Well I watch those ships trails comin' out that big blue sky
Coast to coasters, watch 'em go
And I don't blame 'em one damn bit
If they never look down on this
Ain't much down here they'd want to know

Just Levelland
You could wash your hands
In nothin' but Levelland

Mama used to roll her hair
Back before the central air
We'd sit outside and watch the stars at night
She 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

I payed up all my debts
Got some change left over yet
I'm getting on a whisper jet
Going to fly as far as I can get

From Levelland
Done the best I can
In Levelland
Comments (223)add comment
I don't think she's seen the sky
Since we got the satellite dish.
 Typesbad wrote:

Actually Keen covers this song.  His version was what I heard first and I thought he wrote it for a while.  I like both versions.
 
Man, I'm going to have to look up that Keen version - thanks for the tip.
 thewiseking wrote:
Nice rough Texas sound. Kinda like Robert Earl Keane.

 
Actually Keen covers this song.  His version was what I heard first and I thought he wrote it for a while.  I like both versions.
 DocStrangelove wrote:
Sound much like Bruce Cockburn {#Smile}

 
I was going to say Lou Reed
Hearing this song on RP is what got me turned on to McMurtry a few years ago. I was fortunate to see him and the band playing it just a few weeks ago, opening for Jason Isbell.

This has a fraternal twin song in Telegraph Road, the masterpiece from Dire Straits. 
"Thank you, James .. and next up for our special high school talent show, boys and girls..."
Lava Lamp
I've come to really like James McMurtry.  I got started on "Choctaw Bingo".  I now listen to a playlist of his albums regularly.  He makes me think of John Prine.  Seems to have sensitivity and great wit.
Sorry Willie, here in Wales we would have that market cornered. I can't remember the last day without rain, seems like July.
ScottishWillie wrote:

Scotland is the place for you. If we could export rain we would all be richer than the Saudis!

 


This sings for my home town, too.
 Rooney wrote:
I like everything about him except his voice.

 
Saw him interviewed a few months back - liked the cut of his gib.
Lol  
Best name for a rock band so far today {#Laughing}
 thewiseking wrote:
Nice rough Texas sound. Kinda like Robert Earl Keane.

 
Texas country is best country!
The quintessential "get me out'ta this (small) town I have had enough" song.  Me like.  

Highlow
American Net'Zen
 Ableragtacker wrote:
Is it just me or does this guy sound like Bruce Cockburn?

 
Uh...no.  It's you.  It's definitely you.
I like everything about him except his voice.
Songwriter's songwriter.
Sound much like Bruce Cockburn {#Smile}
 Ableragtacker wrote:
Is it just me or does this guy sound like Bruce Cockburn?
 
It's you.

(I don't know what you sound like, btw, so ...)
 nmcvaugh wrote:

Wow. I must have heard this song a couple dozen times, and never really listened to the lyrics (it gets busy at work).

But my ears just perked up when I heard the line about water drying up in levelland. Damn. He's talking about me - literally debating moving out of Texas, in part because we're running out of water, and in part out of frustration with the residents and their response to this (more housing developments). 
 
Scotland is the place for you. If we could export rain we would all be richer than the Saudis!
McMurtry = genious!
 ppopp wrote:
Lots of talking, hinting at maybe breaking into song at some point. Good candidate for a Lou Reed cover act.

 
Pop is your thing.  We get it.
Nice rough Texas sound. Kinda like Robert Earl Keane.
Lots of talking, hinting at maybe breaking into song at some point. Good candidate for a Lou Reed cover act.
I get it. The folliw-up live version Sweet Jane w. Margo Timmins helps bring it into VU. 

I like James' stuff. The world needs more singer songwriters who actually have something to say.

(Thought it was fave Canuck anthem-eer  Bruce Cockburn at first.)
 Ishwara wrote:
Not good

 Great!
Not good
de klaane bruder vom Lou
 sirtezza wrote:
yikes! this is terrible in SO MANY WAYS!!

 
Wrong wrong wrong, in so many words.
 stalfnzo wrote:
 idiot_wind wrote:
In a strange way...I hear similarities with Warren Z. and Tom Waits. 

 
I hear Velvet Underground
 
 
I hear James McMurtry.
I hear VU too. 
 idiot_wind wrote:
In a strange way...I hear similarities with Warren Z. and Tom Waits. 

 
I hear Velvet Underground
 
As bad as this seems, I kinda like it haha
In a strange way...I hear similarities with Warren Z. and Tom Waits. 
 Typesbad wrote:
I don't know if I prefer this execution or Robert Earl Keen's but there is no doubt McMurtry wrote one damn find song here. Most of his songs are that way in my opinion.

 
On the CD there's between songs banter where he explains a bit about the song.  He starts out "Contrary to popular believe Robert Earl Keen did not write that song...".  On the CD it's called "Max's Theorem" he said he wrote the song about his friend Max, a communist who didn't fit in well in Floydada, TX.  Max's theorem says that a Good Old Boy can become an Intellectual, but an Intellectual cannot become a Good Old Boy.
 nmcvaugh wrote:

Wow. I must have heard this song a couple dozen times, and never really listened to the lyrics (it gets busy at work).

But my ears just perked up when I heard the line about water drying up in levelland. Damn. He's talking about me - literally debating moving out of Texas, in part because we're running out of water, and in part out of frustration with the residents and their response to this (more housing developments). 

 
If you move to southern california it will just be the same thing over again. I think it is all that farmland and not LA specifically though.  At what point do they have to drain the Great Lakes for 600 million people and the food necessary to feed them? Man am I a downer today.
I don't know if I prefer this execution or Robert Earl Keen's but there is no doubt McMurtry wrote one damn find song here. Most of his songs are that way in my opinion.
 h8rhater wrote:

Rednecks come from everywhere and the ones that ain't from the South might as well be.  Hell... Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.

 
True about rednecks, the South Shore of Boston is full of them.

BTW, I believe James Carville's original quote on one of the Sunday shows was "Pennsylvania is Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west, and Kentucky in between."

'Course, he might not have made it up but knowing James he probably did.
this song is a bit flat ...

 
Thought this was some Lou Reed I'd never heard....
not bad. 
Aweful voice. Every song sounds exactly the same. 
Love the lyrics of this tune. 
real music, real words, real guy.....
 toterola wrote:

My point is that "Larry The Cable Guy" is a hack who pretends to be a Deep-Southern redneck in order to entertain same. He's from Nebraska, or some shit. Christ. {#Flamed}

Anyway... James McMurtry puts on one hell of a live show. Well worth the time, you'll enjoy it greatly. Bring earplugs if you can't stand it loud. He can definitely blow your hair back.

 
Rednecks come from everywhere and the ones that ain't from the South might as well be.  Hell... Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.

Hah! He mentioned "Coast to Coasters"!!!! Love that radio show!


I'm not a country fan but McMurtry really works for me.  Quite literate fellow.  I always hope to hear Choctaw Bingo.
Like it.  Superb lyrics with a great amount of truth in them.  Sung honesty in a minimalistic style.  Like it indeed.

Highlow
American Net'zen
 cc_rider wrote:

Yeah, James McMurtry knows how to wring the essence from a place. He doesn't pull any punches either.


 
Wow. I must have heard this song a couple dozen times, and never really listened to the lyrics (it gets busy at work).

But my ears just perked up when I heard the line about water drying up in levelland. Damn. He's talking about me - literally debating moving out of Texas, in part because we're running out of water, and in part out of frustration with the residents and their response to this (more housing developments). 
Outstanding lyrics
I'm always in awe of how these guys remember lyrics, even if they write 'em in the first place. Good story. 
 lophrequa wrote:

and your point is?

 
My point is that "Larry The Cable Guy" is a hack who pretends to be a Deep-Southern redneck in order to entertain same. He's from Nebraska, or some shit. Christ. {#Flamed}

Anyway... James McMurtry puts on one hell of a live show. Well worth the time, you'll enjoy it greatly. Bring earplugs if you can't stand it loud. He can definitely blow your hair back.
 That_SOB wrote:
 Wonder how he got that group to sound so much like the Velvet Underground ? LOU !! YOU IN THERE ?? {#Curtain} you can tell me...
 
Cool. Someone suggests McMurtry is Reed, and Bill plays a Velvet cover.


 That_SOB wrote:
 Wonder how he got that group to sound so much like the Velvet Underground ? LOU !! YOU IN THERE ?? {#Curtain} you can tell me...
 

That was my first thought... "Is this Lou Reed?" 

And that's a compliment... : )
 Wonder how he got that group to sound so much like the Velvet Underground ? LOU !! YOU IN THERE ?? {#Curtain} you can tell me...
 crockydile wrote:
I grew up in Midland, Texas..had some relatives in Levelland. Damn, I relate to this. It hurts. {#Cry}
 
Yeah, James McMurtry knows how to wring the essence from a place. He doesn't pull any punches either.

this guy...when he was a little kid, i seem to just remember reading that the Merry Pranksters stopped by to say "hi" to his Dad on their infamous trip. He was meeting all of these people! but he probably doesn't remember a lot of it.
Also Allen Ginsberg and Orlovsky stopped by on one of their cross-country expeditions I think, so he was hanging with beatniks and proto-hippies when he was a young-'un. I guess they had some influence on him. He's a good songwriter (I'm just discovering him here on RP.)
I'm torn... I like his studio version with its slightly faster beat, but this live version is richer somehow. McMurtry's voice seems to have mellowed, and he's more comfortable taking his time to get his words understood.  For some reason, I think of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" which deals with a young man's discontent and apathy towards his situation.

Crockydile - I'm so sorry this song is painful for you... {#Hug}
 drictor wrote:
This album was recorded in my old haunt, the Zephyr in SLC.  Used to hang there regularly when I was youner.  I was actually in town when he recorded this and decided not to go (old age and all), boy do I regret that!

The Zephyr is long gone, which is too bad.  Supposedly that had an awesome sound board, which is why he recorded there.  Coulda, shoulda, woulda...
 
Ahh yes!  We do miss the old Zephyr here in Salt Lake City.  The place smelled like three day old cigarette smoke and stale beer, but always had great diverse acts, cheap drinks, and good sound.  That, and you could get right up against the stage if you were feeling brave.

Saw more than a few great shows there...

McMurtry ranks as one of the best songwriters working today.
I grew up in Midland, Texas..had some relatives in Levelland. Damn, I relate to this. It hurts. {#Cry}
This album was recorded in my old haunt, the Zephyr in SLC.  Used to hang there regularly when I was youner.  I was actually in town when he recorded this and decided not to go (old age and all), boy do I regret that!

The Zephyr is long gone, which is too bad.  Supposedly that had an awesome sound board, which is why he recorded there.  Coulda, shoulda, woulda...
Love this tune andthis guy
takes me back to kpig days

I liked that place
Seen him several times live here in Pittsburgh.Great shows, Its a shame it always at this tiny bar. He deserves a bigger venue with better sound . Great song writer
 toterola wrote:

Yeah, he's smart enough to fool everyone into thinking he's Southern. Come on, man. {#Stupid}
 
and your point is?

Gotta say, I tend to like the original version better. And, Mr. Keen's version ain't so bad either!
awesome lyricist, great song  {#Motor}
 hansvanderwouden wrote:
Lou Reed soundalike, early years
 
Aww, goddamn! {#Rolleyes}
 davidyoull wrote:
I've always said that James does in 3:30 seconds what his dad does in 330 pages.
 
Yep.  And James as under-rated as his dad is over-.

 nagsheadlocal wrote:
Mama used to roll her hair
Back before the central air
We'd sit outside and watch the stars at night
She'd tell me to make a wish
I'd wish we both could fly
Don't think she's seen the sky
Since we got the satellite dish
 
Says a hell of a lot in a few lines, no?  That's McMurtry's genius.  And genius he is.

Time sure flies when you're having fun
Wasn't it just yesterday you turned twenty-one?
Does it still matter what you might have done
Had you tried?



 Geed wrote:
Don't come around here much any more due to the lack of "twang" but tuning in and hearing this tune certainly is a treat. Wild Bill strikes again.
 
Mmm... too much "twang" already some might think. But each to their own!
Wow - what an intro!
I kinda like the chickenfried Zevon reference (below) plus, after reading about him, I like him more...{#Yes}
My favorite song from one of my favorite songwriters -

Mama used to roll her hair
Back before the central air
We'd sit outside and watch the stars at night
She'd tell me to make a wish
I'd wish we both could fly
Don't think she's seen the sky
Since we got the satellite dish
Great tune but I prefer the REK version
 cc_rider wrote:
Quite true. And 'Larry the Cable Guy'? You can tell he is actually very smart: his ad libs are sharp. c.
 
Yeah, he's smart enough to fool everyone into thinking he's Southern. Come on, man. {#Stupid}
Don't come around here much any more due to the lack of "twang" but tuning in and hearing this tune certainly is a treat. Wild Bill strikes again.

Lou Reed soundalike, early years
So I see someone answered my question earlier - this song wasn't written by Robert Earl Keen as I had thought.  Well, I still think he blows the lid off it with the version he recorded for Picnic.  This is fine though.  I guess Mr McMurtry can sing it however the Hell he wants since he wrote the thing.

{#Yawn}
lmic wrote:
Chickenfried Zevon?
Not such a bad comparison! I like it!
sharkartist wrote:
while the marching band did its best to play... Smoke On the Water and Joy to the World I love it! :jump:
My favorite line from this song.
Jack_Jefferson wrote:
Like I once heard someone say: "Dialect does not equal intellect". I guess it is one thing we have to make an effort to get past. But then again, I can also relate to the Jeff Foxworthy bit about going into the operating room and your heart surgeon has a southern accent.
Quite true. And 'Larry the Cable Guy'? You can tell he is actually very smart: his ad libs are sharp. c.
Excelsior wrote:
I have never heard a vocalist sound more bored than James McMurtry. Every time he opens his mouth, it sounds like he'd rather be anywhere else than in front of a microphone.
Actually that's probably kind of true. He is a bit of a misanthrope. Said the kettle... c.
BORING
AlienRelic wrote:
I have been in several social situations where someone has instantly adopted a condescending attitude as soon as they heard my southern accent. They seemed to automatically assume that I was a redneck moron. It was infuriating, but I suppose it was a useful lesson in what it's like to be the target of predjudice.
i lost my Kentucky accent growing up on the beach and really savor calling people out on it when they practice that special form of bigotry against the South that's still acceptable in some circles ... ironically, it's usually urban progressive types love James McM! 10!
Everyone has to like what you like? talk about growing up, . . punk. . . go swallow more nuts quote="xkolibuul wrote:
Oh go surfing already and leave this one to the grownups.:beat:
meydele wrote:
Interesting to know it's a real town... at first I was convinced he was talking about my dad's home state, Nebraska.
There's not a lot of physical difference between the Llano Estacado/Permian Basin (West TX/Eastern NM) and the Sand Hills of NE and SD. Just a little more stark in its contrasts, perhaps.
jjbix wrote:
snoozer . . . zzzz!
I have never heard a vocalist sound more bored than James McMurtry. Every time he opens his mouth, it sounds like he'd rather be anywhere else than in front of a microphone.
davidyoull wrote:
I LOVE THIS!! :yes: 10 The studio version of this from "Where'd You Hide the Body?" moves a bit faster, and Robert Earl Keene does an ok cover... I've always said that James does in 3:30 seconds what his dad does in 330 pages.
I really liked what you said in contrasting James with his Dad. My politics agree with James's, but I love both of them. And yes, I'm from TX. :wave:
I used to watch the stars with my mom. We had long stretches of home life without tv.
Odyzzeuz wrote:
Try living out there for 20 years. I was born in Waylon's home town, Littlefield, Texas, and grew up in Plainview. Got a bunch of cousins in Levelland. I kinda get this.
The stark beauty of west Texas is real for some people. This could be any one of a hundred little towns out there. I lived out in BFE between Morton and Whiteface. I watched the sunrise from the school bus window. Our "drveway" was nearly 2 miles long. I've lived in Post, Justiceburg, and Snyder. Most of my family is still back there. This song brings back many memories. I get it.
I LOVE THIS!! :yes: 10 The studio version of this from "Where'd You Hide the Body?" moves a bit faster, and Robert Earl Keene does an ok cover... I've always said that James does in 3:30 seconds what his dad does in 330 pages.
Oh go surfing already and leave this one to the grownups.:beat: jjbix wrote:
snoozer . . . zzzz!
laozilover wrote:
:eek: Until I clicked on it, I thought this was Bruce Cockburn! :doh: EDIT AFTER BACKSCROLLING: Lou Reed?!? :stupid:
In light of this comment, I think it's interesting that this song was followed up by Cowboy Junkies' live rendition of "Sweet Jane".
snoozer . . . zzzz!
while the marching band did its best to play... Smoke On the Water and Joy to the World I love it! :jump:
hitherto unknown 9, excellent!
'nuff said...
I'd wish we both could fly I don't think she's seen the sky Since they got the satellite dish . . . Damn, this guy's good.
I really like this guy! He sounds like Stephan Malkmus of "Pavement." Hell, I really like Stephan Malkmus! Play his "Pirate" song (can't think of the name- "Hook"??).
OH. GREAT. THIS GUY IS GOOD. ONE TUNE IS BETTER THAN THE OTHER.
RobK wrote:
So this is or isn't a Robert Earl Keen song? Either way I like REK's version better.
James McMurtry wrote this. In fact, on this recording, in the intro he comments that everyone thinks that REK wrote it because Keen's version gets a lot of play.
AlienRelic wrote:
I have been in several social situations where someone has instantly adopted a condescending attitude as soon as they heard my southern accent. They seemed to automatically assume that I was a redneck moron. It was infuriating, but I suppose it was a useful lesson in what it's like to be the target of predjudice.
Like I once heard someone say: "Dialect does not equal intellect". I guess it is one thing we have to make an effort to get past. But then again, I can also relate to the Jeff Foxworthy bit about going into the operating room and your heart surgeon has a southern accent.
horstman wrote:
Damn, one other person on this planet thinking like I do. And I thought George W. Bush was dangerous. At least I never killed anybody!
Thats something Teddy Kennedy can't say.
meydele wrote:
Interesting to know it's a real town... at first I was convinced he was talking about my dad's home state, Nebraska.
I would have thought this was about Nebraska as well. I think Out Here in the Middle is about Nebraska (with William Jennings Bryan reference).
So this is or isn't a Robert Earl Keen song? Either way I like REK's version better.
laozilover wrote:
:eek: Until I clicked on it, I thought this was Bruce Cockburn! :doh:
Damn, one other person on this planet thinking like I do. And I thought George W. Bush was dangerous. At least I never killed anybody!
:eek: Until I clicked on it, I thought this was Bruce Cockburn! :doh: EDIT AFTER BACKSCROLLING: Lou Reed?!? :stupid:
I have been in several social situations where someone has instantly adopted a condescending attitude as soon as they heard my southern accent. They seemed to automatically assume that I was a redneck moron. It was infuriating, but I suppose it was a useful lesson in what it's like to be the target of predjudice.
...my best friend was a huge fan of the television program farscape and in one episiode i watched with her, the protagonist became hyperintelligent due to some plot device or other...playing against type, the actor decided to portray his hyperintelligent ego with the deepest syrupiest twangiest southern drawl he could muster, to amusing contrast against the stereotypical high-english archetype...
MissAmy wrote:
So, what, does that mean that every single person raised in Texas or the south is "white trash?" Whatever. All forms of ignorance infurate me, including people from "enlighted" areas that think all people from the South are white trash. I spent the first part of my life in the area he is singing about. I have been to Levelland, TX more times than I can count. This song really hits home, and my family is decidedly NOT "white trash."
I have been in several social situations where someone has instantly adopted a condescending attitude as soon as they heard my southern accent. They seemed to automatically assume that I was a redneck moron. It was infuriating, but I suppose it was a useful lesson in what it's like to be the target of predjudice.
Robert_V_West wrote:
You really need to drive from Lubbock Tx. to Santa Fe N.M. to really apreciate the imagery of this song. About halfway, there really is such a place. Home of Waylon Jennings. It is only about an 8 hour drive.
errr... not to nitpick but check your mapquest. If you drove from Lubbock to Santa Fe and went through Levelland halfway there you must have drove through some kind of worm hole or something since it is nearly a burb of Lubbock. Granted it is easy to get into a blacktop daze and lose track of time when everything is so flat and featureless. We spent a year one weekend in Levelland. And Waylon is from Littlefield, a much cuter little town north of there.
Try living out there for 20 years. I was born in Waylon's home town, Littlefield, Texas, and grew up in Plainview. Got a bunch of cousins in Levelland. I kinda get this.
My mother was born in Levelland and there is nothing trashy about that lady.
...actually, james mcmurtry has said during live performances that this song isn't actually about levelland per se - it's about another nameless town out in the region that he didn't care to mention by name, so he chose levelland off a map to substitute in the lyrics instead, because it fit nicely...
Not my favorite song on this album...but still it's a good listen. I was fortunate to be able to go to a concert/recording session for this album at a venue formerly called The Vortez in Salt Lake City. That show had an amazing energy and really made me apprciate McMurtry a ton more! Ahh...good times.
Love his lyrics and his guitar playing isnt bad either. He" got his fingers on the pause of this country. Please play They can't make it her anymore.
MissAmy wrote:
So, what, does that mean that every single person raised in Texas or the south is "white trash?" Whatever. All forms of ignorance infurate me, including people from "enlighted" areas that think all people from the South are white trash. I spent the first part of my life in the area he is singing about. I have been to Levelland, TX more times than I can count. This song really hits home, and my family is decidedly NOT "white trash."
Thank you, MissAmy. My mother was born in Levelland and there is nothing trashy about that lady.
Interesting to know it's a real town... at first I was convinced he was talking about my dad's home state, Nebraska.
MissAmy wrote:
So, what, does that mean that every single person raised in Texas or the south is "white trash?" Whatever. All forms of ignorance infurate me, including people from "enlighted" areas that think all people from the South are white trash. I spent the first part of my life in the area he is singing about. I have been to Levelland, TX more times than I can count. This song really hits home, and my family is decidedly NOT "white trash."
Yeah, we're all hicks.