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The Flatlanders evolve into more band than legend

Paradise, Boston, April 7, 2004

By Jeffrey B. Remz

BOSTON - The first Flatlanders album was made in 1972, but not really released until 10 years later, and that was through a British label. Rounder Records finally released it here in 1990.

And 30 years after their debut came their second album, "Now Again," but only about two years later, "Wheels of Fortune" surfaced."

Which means the trio of Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock must be moving at breakneck speed these days.

While they did not always move at such speed during their show Wednesday before about 400 people, a two-thirds full house, that probably spoke volumes about the group.

Their music mixes uptempo honky tonkers, country ballads, blues rock and even a waltz (they are all from Texas, after all, and "West Texas Waltz" was a highlight) with a clear country bent all the way.

These veterans know their way around a song. So much so that they see no need to rush a song along or punch up the tempo or pump up the volume in an attempt to make a song sound "better."

No need to as The Flatlanders often would meander their way through a song at mid-tempo or slower speed allowing the song to reach its natural pace and conclusion.

And that's not to say that the evening bordered on tedium. Far far from it.

While The Flatlanders have been elevated to the status of cult icons, they sure didn't act like it. One had an easy sense of camaraderie between the three long-time friends without any sense whatsoever of trying to cash in on past notoriety or overwhelming egos at play. They certainly seemed to enjoy themselves up there.

And they complement each other quite well vocally. Ely possesses a gritty, hardened voice; Hancock's is much smoother, while Gilmore may be an acquired taste for some with its high pitch, but a nice one to acquire.

For most of the evening, each took care of leads with Ely, Hancock and Gilmore taking turns at a variety of songs ranging from "Baby Do You Love Me Still?" to "Eggs of Your Chickens" to "I'm Gonna Strangle You Shorty." As the evening wore on, the three would trade off stanzas within the same song.

The concert stayed on track throughout with The Flatlanders playing songs of high quality.

And there is more to The Flatlanders in concert than its obvious front men. The understated gem is guitarist Rob Gjersoe who spiced up many a tune. He could play it twangy, bluesy or do whatever was needed. Youthful looking drummer Chris Searles and bassist Gary Herman were no slouches either.

Three decades later, the creative and concert juices of The Flatlanders remain well intact while not resting on their laurels. In fact, now they seem more like a band than only a legend.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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