The Grand Sultan of St. Claude (and other streets) songwriting, Alex McMurray is among the best songwriters in New Orleans, a man who over the past two decades has written songs that mark our lives, deaths, loves, hates, hangovers, and what comes before and after those excesses. Buy on Amazon His new record is another set of excellent songs that will insinuate themselves subtly into listeners’ ears, to the point they will become part of all our lexicons. All of McMurray’s personas are here: the soulful philosopher of “One Step Away From the Hole,” the wild hedonist of “Me and My Bad Luck,” and, of course, the recurring lunatic on the lam Otis, who on this record has taken up with the circus. The album has the usual great turns of phrase mixing film noir atmosphere, pulp detective novels, and the unique language of the Crescent City that leave us with people making wishes over 30 cent cigars and Chicago chippies drinking from gerbil jars. McMurray’s great guitar playing is in full display with its chunky rhythms and about-to-go-off-the-rails solos — but with the greater use of horns, it has less weight to carry and sounds all the more refreshing when it cuts through the mix. The horns make this record different than previous McMurray efforts in that it has a wider and more varied sound. Previous McMurray records kept mainly to the folk and rock realm, but this one moves into southern soul territory with “As Long As You Let Me,” killer brass band riffs in “Me and My Bad Luck,” the Beatles-esque cadences of “Beneath The Rain,” trad jazz call and response with “I Can’t Wait (Until They Turn My Baby Loose),” and ‘60s garage with “Otis At The Wheel.” In fact, the record encompasses the current sound of New Orleans more than anything he or most musicians have done before (aside from a lack of bounce track, but there’s always a remix possibility). If you want to know what’s happening in the New Orleans singer/songwriter world, check out Alex McMurray.