The Flatlanders

Now Again – 2002 (New West)

Reviewed by Joel Bernstein

CDs by The Flatlanders

The Flatlanders - the combined forces of Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock - has attained legendary status from the solo accomplishments of the three leaders and belatedly released vintage recordings. On this long anticipated reunion album, fans get a chance to finally hear the group as it really was - with all three members singing, instead of just Gilmore as on the old album. Original member Steve Wesson, whose musical saw played a major role on those early tunes, is also back -although less prominently.

All three men are in fine vocal form, and they shared writing credit for almost every song. Some of the cuts are mainly solo tracks, but many have two or all three singers trading verses. Ely in particular sounds revitalized, with "I Thought That The Worst Was Over" rocking like his early discs, and "My Wildest Dreams Grow Wilder Every Day" (a shared lead vocal with Gilmore) being countrier than anything Ely has done in years. One of the major verse-swapping songs, "Pay The Alligator," is a rollicking but awfully silly ditty, while others like "Right Where I Belong" are more serious. There's a nice mix of styles, showcasing the versatility of these three great talents.