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The Flatlanders

NOW AGAIN (New West) • The Flatlanders

Nothing resonates quite like the voice of experience. Except three of them together.

These three sons of Lubbock, Texas, one more prodigal than the next, are back together after three decades of solo careers. Joe Ely was asked to contribute some music to Redford's movie The Horse Whisperer, music was solicited from his former bandmates Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, and one thing led to an apparently blessed reunion. It certainly has been a widely celebrated one, by critics and fans alike. In fact, it looks on the verge of being a big enough "event" to attract the attention of music fans who are not yet versed in the world of Texas music and its unique band and brand of songwriters. One amazing happenstance that attracted a lot of attention was when a popular NY morning radio host, Don Imus, issued a challenge to Country radio. He said that if any Top Ten Country station reported to R&R or Billboard that they had any single from the Flatlanders CD in their Top Ten, he would contribute ten thousand dollars to the charity of their choosing. KZLA in Los Angeles responded, playing "Waving My Heart Goodbye" every hour. The album went to #22 on the Country chart in a hurry. For an "Alternative Country" album, I think you'd have to call that unheard of.

Lubbock is West Texas, the land that spawned Bob Wills and Buddy Holly. This is not Townes Van Zandt or Guy Clark territory. It's the high plains, the constant wind, the endless horizon, and the sky that won't quit. I came across something that Townes said about all those west Texas guys having that High Plains air in their sound. (You ought to read the great interview that Chris Oglesby does with Butch Hancock at virtualubbock.com.)

The original Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the Flatlanders record came out in 1970 or '71, but only on 8 track tape. You gotta love that. Luckily, Rounder Records reissued it in 1990 under the title More a Legend Than a Band, and it made the biggest noise overseas. (Does it bother you when foreigners catch on to our good music faster than we do?)

This fine, fine disc was produced by Joe Ely, generally considered the roadhouse rocker of the bunch, having toured with both the Clash and the Rolling Stones. (He's also a fine painter, check out his website.) Butch Hancock might be construed as the most Will Rogers philosopher type of the trio, and is also schooled as an architect. But make no mistake, all three seem to be very expressive and eloquent on the widest range of things, from the Tao to politics to UFOs (quite a topic around those parts, one comes to understand). Jimmie Dale Gilmore is so unabashedly metaphysical that his records have been called country & eastern music. Hope we get to do an interview with him in the near future.

I haven't talked much about the music? Hell, they're West Texas songwriters, what do you think it sounds like... It's Tex-Mex, it's rock and roll, it's folk, and it's country. It's great, is what it is. Check out the clips on the Listen page, and follow the links below to each of the artist websites. And buy it here. • FG

Joe Ely      Jimmie Gilmore      Butch Hancock


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