Postcard from... Austin


“Honey don’t you be yelling at me while I’m cleaning my gun,” sings James McMurtry as he opens his regular Wednesday night set at the Continental Club – the grand-daddy of venues in Austin, Texas – with the first lines of a song off his new album.

In the US city is known as “the live music capital of the world”, the Continental Club, housed in a modest two-storey brick building since 1957, is easily findable thanks to its emblematic giant retro neon sign. For over half a century a block of names scrawled on a chalkboard behind the Continental’s bar have outlined each week’s daily offerings of live bands and singers, slanted towards a dynamic mix of rootsy music.

McMurtry says the Continental’s historic status boosted his own career because “a lot of people go to the club just to go there, and I happen to be there. A lot of us [musicians] have benefited like that”. For otherwise hard-travelling in-house musicians, playing there has practical advantages, too: “We can go straight in... and we don’t have to get a soundcheck.”

That the Continental has endured so long is unusual, McMurtry says. “There’s an attrition rate, a lot of clubs close within two-and-a-half years... But the Continental has always been around.”