An Old Friend of My Younger Ears (James McMurtry / Martha Scanlan)

Somehow I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I was a highly opinionated teenager, but still maintained an open mind when it came to music. I was into the early alternative groups like R.E.M. and The Smiths, darker stuff like Joy Division, and (since I went to a very diverse magnet school) a ton of hip hop music. There was another all boys’ school in town where many of the kids with wealthier families attended. Their high school dances/concerts were huge, because the outrageous tuition afforded money to spring for national touring acts to get the kids all excited. I was friends with some of the boys at the school, and used to “go” with some of the girls that went to the all girls’ school that served as its social component. Perhaps it was a more than subtle attempt to arrange marriages at an early age by partnering these two schools together, but who knows. The bottom line is that because I knew enough people at these two schools (despite not being a student at either) I was somehow able to attend many of their events. One of these events that really stuck out was concert with a group that was popular at that time called The Bodeans. I didn’t care for them very much, but I knew there would be pretty girls there, so I went. The opening act was a tall gangly guy from Texas who I’d never heard of. It just happened to be James McMurtry – one of this week’s musical guests on eTown.

James McMurtry / Martha ScanlanSomehow, James’ music hit me hard that night. The lyrics painted clear pictures and stories in my head, and the band he had with him that evening (particularly the drummer) was playing with taste I had never experienced before. I bought the cassette of his album Too Long In The Wasteland a few days later, and literally wore it out riding in my dad’s car to and from school. Sometimes when you go back and listen to songs you loved in high school, you don’t like them so much anymore. That is not the case for my relationship with James’ songwriting. It is special, and I still love it. If you have a spare few minutes, here is a link to one of my favorites off that cassette –

Needles to say, it was a joy for me personally to have him with us for this week’s broadcast/podcast.

James McMurtry / Martha ScanlanAlso with us this week is Montana-based singer/songwriter Martha Scanlan. I’d never heard her music before the taping, and she totally blew me away. There is something to be said about singer/songwriters that can command your attention with or without a full band. Lucky for us, we were able to get a taste of both, as she performed a few songs stripped down with just her and her producer Jon Neufeld playing guitars, and then a few numbers with Nick, Helen and the whole eTones band.

Great stuff on the music front this week – plus an awesome eChievement Award story about a couple of women who are helping young children develop solid reading skills at an early age.

Be sure to tune in, podcast and check out the videos for this week’s episode!

BTW – you can show your support to eTown in a huge way by subscribing to eTown’s YouTube channel. Once we reach a certain number of subscribers, we’ll be able to partner with YouTube to bring you live streaming events and more. If you are inclined to do so, click the “SUBSCRIBE” button in one of the videos below. It’ll be a huge help.

Thanks – and happy eTowning!


– Zack