Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” That is a quote by Leo Tolstoy that is quite pertinent as I listen to The Hornet’s Nest. This was not one that I warmed up to immediately. It is sparse and a bit on the slower side. But I hung in there, and by the third listen I loved it and found myself humming the tunes. So my advice is hang in there a bit and your patience will be rewarded.
This is in no way an indictment of McMurtry’s music, it is an indictment of my lack of patience and my eagerness to jump to conclusions. It reminds me of the giant himalayan lily that takes five to seven years to flower. The Hornet’s Nest won’t take that long to bear fruit or flowers, just an extra listen or two. I am just saying don’t give up on this too early, it is beautiful and so well written. Proving the theorem that less is more.
Curtis McMurtry is a 26 year old singer, songwriter, composer, and musician. If you recognize the last name, it is because he is the son of singer/songwriter James McMurtry and grandson of writer Larry McMurtry. Pretty good pedigree but the young McMurtry does not rest on his laurels.
He works extremely hard to hone his craft and excel. He has a degree in composition and ethnomusicology from Sarah Lawrence College. That background and education definitely comes through in his music as each song has a symphonic feel to it. He also spent a year in Nashville learning some songwriting chops from Guy Clark. At 26, he already has a very impressive resume.
But resume alone does a musician and performer make. You need to have feeling and vision along with education and training. McMurtry’s got it. The Hornet’s Nest is a cross between 1940’s music with Americana of today. There really is nothing I have heard that sounds anything like it.
Songs like Rebecca (Track 6), Love Me More (Track 3), If I Leave (Track 9), and Together For Now (Track 10) sound more like symphonic movements than country songs. An unlikely duo, but it fits. Speaking of duos, the backing vocals of Diana Burgess are absolutely stunning. Another stunning aspect of this album is the cover which is a cross between a human heart and a hornet’s nest. Minimalistic, but proof that a picture is worth a thousand words.