(Photo by Chris Davis)
I had the pleasure of seeing the Flatlanders (Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock) on my birthday earlier this month. They are a real delight to see in person and have such a songwriting and musical craft about them that they captivate any stage they are covering.
I’ve seen Joe Ely several times, and he is always the essence of cool. One of my favorite Joe Ely stories is when he did a guitar pull with Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, and Ray Wylie Hubbard that I attended. Joe told the story of when he and Lu were on a tour back in the 80s that was sponsored by Jim Beam and what a tour it must’ve been.
This past January, my wife and I had the chance to see the Flatlanders together on the Outlaw Country Cruise, and they regulated during all of their concerts. They brought their solo songs, their group songs, and tackled deep catalog like no other group out there.
The show at the Tower Theater in Oklahoma City was no different. An acoustic affair that resembled a guitar pull with the three sitting on stools and having only a guitarist accompany them, the feeling was very intimate. It was a smaller crowd than it should’ve been (c’mon folks, get out and support live music while we still have it!), but everyone there was feeling the vibe.
The two biggest highlights for me were “Borderless Love” and “Dallas.” The former continues to be timely as we as a country continue to try to decide if we have any morality at all when it comes to how we treat people trying to come here for a better life. The refrain of “There’s no need for a wall” still resonates with me today.
The group traded stories about Townes Van Zandt and some of the experiences and dreams they’ve all had about him. This part of the show reminded those in attendance that we were witnessing historical figures that had connections to the roots of the very music that we all love and appreciate.
If you get a chance to go see the Flatlanders, do it. You’ll feel better and hear some great music. The same applies for Joe, Jimmie Dale, or Butch solo, as well.