He sings of distance, about rivers and ranches, of smoldering passions and sad laments, of faraway longing and unrequited love.’ Everybody else romances the road. Joe Ely lives it. Call him what you want – a wandering minstrel, gypsy cowboy, visionary song poet, or houserocker on fire – whatever he is, Ely’s covered a lot of ground in his time. He really has ridden the rails (in a circus train, no less), thumbed his way across the country, hopped boats to exotic foreign lands, and ridden horses across the prairie. All part of the relentless quest for revelation that only a journey can satisfy. The first milestone was a band called the Flatlanders, formed in Lubbock more than twenty years ago by Ely, Hancock and Gilmore. Their visionary melding of country, rock, and fold immediately pegged them as three singer- songwriters who were ahead of their time and way too experimental for Nashville. Next came the Joe Ely Band, Joe’s own ensemble who once again mixed country and rock elements into something new and completely different, proving to anyone that heard them that an accordion or pedal steel guitar really could pack the same sonic punch as an electric guitar. In England, the Panhandle poets and his pickers were embraced by the Clash, the standard bearers of the nascent punk movement, who might not have shared the same cultural values as the West Texans, but who certainly knew integrity when they heard it. Since then, Ely has gained the respect of his friends and his peers, including such kindred spirits as Bruce Springsteen, who contributes vocals on his latest album, along with old friend Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and new friend Raul Malo of the Mavericks.
Saturday, March 2, 2024