Every Flatlanders' album release is a welcome treat, but "Treasure of Love" is especially sweet. Although there are some standout originals on this release, most of these 15 tracks are well chosen cover versions. Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock are all distinctive vocalists, and these seasoned performers make each of these songs their own, whether penned them themselves or not.
Although these three iconic Texans have always blurred stylistic lines, this album contains plenty of country sounds. It opens with Butch Hancock's "Moanin' of the Midnight Train," a Hancock song Ely sings. It's both an angry and sad song, and Ely voices it authoritatively. "Long Time Gone" is even better, as it finds these three harmonizing together and Gilmore doing a little lovely yodeling on the chorus. The singing is stellar throughout. Everything sounds like it was made with love. Maybe the pandemic downtime gave these musical veterans extra time to perfect this recording, as it never sounds rushed or thrown together.
The best cover versions always make you listen to familiar songs with new ears, which is exactly what happens when Hancock gifts us with "Give My Love to Rose." Although The Flatlanders stick to the script of Johnny Cash's original musical arrangement, Hancock's smoother singing style somehow infuses it with added sadness. Bob Dylan's philosophical "She Belongs to Me" is perfectly suited to Gilmore, who turns this one into a kind of sonic anthem.
There's a lot of heaviness found in many of these songs, as you might expect from an album recorded during the pandemic. However, Hancock sings his own "Mama Do the Kangaroo," which is over three minutes of joyful silliness. Ely finds himself "sweating like a preacher and walking like a mule" when he sees his good girl walking in mysterious footwear, and also a bit of fun.
It had been over 12 years since The Flatlanders' previous release, so let's hope this trio doesn't wait nearly that long to record again.