Most live albums are like enforced community service, something artists do to get out of a bad situation. But there’s no contract fulfillment in mind on James McMurtry ’s incinerator, Live in Aught-Three (Compadre). It would be easy to dismiss the Austinite’s laconic delivery, except he’s a natural storyteller (like his Pulitzer prize-winning dad, Larry), and he knows how to set his narratives to music. McMurtry and his band play it lean and taut throughout. For those late to the party, this makes a nice de facto “best of,” and even the initiated will find that several of these rocked-up arrangements improve on the originals.

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