joe ely

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Various: Wounded Heart of America; Tom Russell Songs (Hightone)

Various: Wounded Heart of America; Tom Russell Songs (Hightone)

Some weeks ago I was invited to give a talk about some of my favourite music to a group of people in someone's home. It was a very pleasant night and the first few things I played were either by the American singer-songwriter Tom Russell or his songs sung by others (notably Joe Ely covering the dramatic Gallo Del Cielo which I said I could...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008:  Hayes Carll: Trouble in Mind (Lost Highway)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Hayes Carll: Trouble in Mind (Lost Highway)

You'd think with strip malls, fast food franchises, saturation low-cost reality television and the widespread levelling out of mainstream culture that guys like Carll would have been ironed out of American life But he's one of those crinkles in the texture, an alt.country-cum-trad.country guy who is a little early Steve Earle and Joe Ely,...

Silver Jews: Lookout Mountain Look out Sea (UNSpin/EMI)

Silver Jews: Lookout Mountain Look out Sea (UNSpin/EMI)

This US indie-rock band with loose links to early Pavement might not be to everyone's taste -- but singer-songwriter David Berman's easy blend of the occasional Johnny Cash gravitas in his delivery, his shaggy-dog stories, unexpected metaphors and rhymes, skewed stories and memorable alt.country pop has had this one on steady Elsewhere play at...

Various: Bar Mexico. Classic and New Mexican Flavours (Demon)

Various: Bar Mexico. Classic and New Mexican Flavours (Demon)

Elsewhere claims absolutely no expertise (or even much prior knowledge) in Mexican music other than what has been picked up on the long journey of life, time in the Tex-Mex territory and an open mind to the likes of Mexican Institute of Sound, Lila Downs and so on. Oh, and having seen the film La Bamba, of course. So we take this as we...

BONFIRE OF ROADMAPS by JOE ELY (2008)

BONFIRE OF ROADMAPS by JOE ELY (2008)

Joe Ely who grew up in Lubbock, West Texas (Buddy Holly's hometown) is something of a legend in Americana/alt.country rock: he was on the road in the early 70s hitching around to play gigs far and wide but also formed the formidable band the Flatlanders with Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore (both of whom have gone on to remarkable...

Joe Ely: Streets of Sin (Rounder)

Joe Ely: Streets of Sin (Rounder)

Ely from the flatlands of West Texas offers a triple threat: a memorable leathery twang cured in tequila, the paraffin soul of a rocker in the clothes of a Tex-Mex country singer, and a connection to a songwriting tradition which includes his gifted peers Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore (of the shortlived Flatlanders which included...

Joe Ely: Live at Antones (2000)

Joe Ely: Live at Antones (2000)

After Joe Strummer's terrific showing at the Big Day Out in 2000, albums by his old band the Clash got a fair thrashing round my way, especially their sprawling three-album set from 1980, Sandinista! Over six sides of vinyl, they dragged together garage-trash rock and dub reggae, power pop and rockabilly, and most points in...

BILL CHAMBERS INTERVIEWED (2003): Call of the big country

BILL CHAMBERS INTERVIEWED (2003): Call of the big country

When Bill Chambers tells it, with a smile at the corner of his lips and in his leisurely Australian drawl, it sounds the most natural thing in the world. But it's kind of strange. He's talking about the mid-70s and what he was doing then, having grown up on country music and playing in bands. "I was a bit of a cowboy hippie, long...

The Flatlanders: Hills and Valleys (New West)

The Flatlanders: Hills and Valleys (New West)

The great Flatlanders from West Texas - Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, each one a name in their own right -- record together so infrequently that every album (they average one a decade about 40 years) is an occasion. Unfortunately it is never quite the special occasion you wish for. This one starts with the exceptional...

Matt Joe Gow and the Dead Leaves: The Messenger (Essence)

Matt Joe Gow and the Dead Leaves: The Messenger (Essence)

I especially like this line in Matt Joe Gow's bio: "Like most New Zealanders with any imagination, Matt soon found himself compelled to stray beyond the boundaries of his wonderful counmtry . . ."Kind of a back-handed compliment there from an Australian, I guess. Still, no artist should ever be held to their bio and this one was...

Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses: Roadhouse Sun (Lost Highway)

Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses: Roadhouse Sun (Lost Highway)

American singer-songwriter Bingham's voice was so lived in and road-hardened on his debut Mescalito (a Best of Elsewhere 2008 album) that he sounded like a man far beyond his mid-20s. He seemed to have literally lived the rough roadhouse life and whisky bars that others could only suggest they had. You didn't doubt his stories of...

Bill Chambers: Drifting South (Whitewater)

Bill Chambers: Drifting South (Whitewater)

Bill Chambers -- quite apart from being the father of singer-songwriter Kasey and producer Nash -- is one of Australia's great singer-songwriters whose work just seems to be getting deeper and more resonant. He is suitably road-grizzled these days and his work (just a reference point) sits somewhere between Paul Kelly, Kris Kristofferson and...

Lyle Lovett: Natural Forces (Curb)

Lyle Lovett: Natural Forces (Curb)

With this fine country/alt.country singer-songwriter due to play in New Zealand soon, with Kasey Chambers (date and details here) and knowing his albums rarely go reviewed, it is timely to consider his most recent release which came out in the pre-Christmas slew of hits and compilations. Lovett has never been an easy one to pigeon-hole:...

TOWNES VAN ZANDT INTERVIEWED (1988): Say hello and wave goodbye

TOWNES VAN ZANDT INTERVIEWED (1988): Say hello and wave goodbye

You hate to say lt, but Townes Van Zandt had probably already written his own obituary - many times. Try this as a sample of his cut-to-the-bone, white knuckle lyrics: “There ain’t much I haven’t tried -- fast llvin’, slow suicide, I try to tell myself I’m fine but it just aln’t so.” Van Zandt has...

Greg Fleming: Taken (LucaDiscs/Rhythmethod)

Greg Fleming: Taken (LucaDiscs/Rhythmethod)

The excellent liner notes by New Zealand's Greg Fleming (with lyrics and reflections on the genesis of these songs) tell their own story about why Taken never appeared in '95 after the excellent Ghosts Are White album (remastered and added here as a bonus disc). But we should be very glad it has come out because after the alt.rock blast of...

Los Lobos: Tin Can Trust (Shock)

Los Lobos: Tin Can Trust (Shock)

Los Lobos have always had a propensity to revert back to being a bar band (albeit a well produced one with terrific guitar playing) and that is their default position too often here for this to be truly satisfying -- and some dreary lyrics . . . "Down Main Street/down easy street, it's when I feel at home"; "Little darling I...

Dan Sultan: Get Out While You Can (Arts Victoria/Southbound)

Dan Sultan: Get Out While You Can (Arts Victoria/Southbound)

Sultan from Melbourne -- father Irish, mother Aboriginal -- is a hard one to put in any box: tracks here are reflective but mainstream country rock, others more alt.country, then he delivers some rural balladry and a broken-down acoustic folk ballad. Then things rock out. This also opens with a terrific slice of Sixties soulful pop balladry...

Peter Case: Peter Case (1986)

Peter Case: Peter Case (1986)

For six months after its release, at least three times a week, I would play this album. Night after night. I had been given a cassette tape which I had in the kitchen and while making dinner for my kids, only stopping to hear Alistair Cooke's Letter From America on the radio, Peter Case would be on permanant repeat. One night one of my...

BILLY JOE SHAVER PROFILED (2011): The rough diamond from Texas coal

BILLY JOE SHAVER PROFILED (2011): The rough diamond from Texas coal

The truth about Billy Joe Shaver is much more interesting than anything anyone might make up about the guy. Shaver has lived on the hard edge of life. Born in Corsicana in Texas in late 1941 or '39 depending on where you read it (“just a cotton-gin town, the same one Lefty Frizzell came from") and raised in Waco, he lost two...

I FELT LIKE A FIGHT, ALRIGHT? by RUTH CARR

I FELT LIKE A FIGHT, ALRIGHT? by RUTH CARR

While it seems to be going too far to suggest, as the reviewer of Radio NZ National did, that these "one-liners, poems, lyrics and tales" are "reminiscent of Cohen's mid-career poetry and writings" they are certainly more than merely diverting. The writer -- Ruth Carr of the band Minuit -- has some snappy aphorisms, odd...

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Shane Nicholson

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Shane Nicholson

Australian singer-songwriter Shane Nicholson has delivered consistently interesting, but rather too few, albums. Each makes you want another almost immediately because of their lyrical sensiblity and sharp songwriting. Nicholson is also alongside his wife Kasey Chambers on her albums and because she is part of a fine family -- dad Bill a...

Raul Malo: Sinners and Saints (Concord)

Raul Malo: Sinners and Saints (Concord)

The former frontman for the seemingly defunct Mavericks continues his credible solo career here on an album which unself-consciously bridges dramatic Spanish-influenced Tex-Mex, alt.country and stinging guitar rock, and which pulls his powerful vocals to the fore. You can't turn away from a voice this nail-hard and when it is arc-welded to...

Shane Nicholson: Bad Machines (Liberation)

Shane Nicholson: Bad Machines (Liberation)

Nicholson is one of the finest of Australia's singers-songwriters with his feet in alt.country and Americana, but he's as comfortable with Dylanesque wordplay in a strange narrative (Blueberry Pie with its "monkey with the golden tooth") as he is delivering emotionally weighted acoustic ballads (Trick Knee Blues). And as always he...

The Wronglers with Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Heirloom Music (Neanderthal)

The Wronglers with Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Heirloom Music (Neanderthal)

Jimmie Dale Gilmore possesses one of the most distinctive voices and when deployed on lachrymose ballads he can tear your heart out. But this is an odd and old time project, Gilmore out front of a band of mixed abilities (interesting, but not interesting enough) and performing mostly songs from the Thirties and Forties, some of which come from...

Joe Ely: Satisfied at Last (Rack 'Em Records/Southbound)

Joe Ely: Satisfied at Last (Rack 'Em Records/Southbound)

The very good news is that the great Joe Ely -- who has delivered a few patchy albums in the past decade -- doesn't sound at all "satisfied" as the album's title would suggest. In fact from the opener The Highway is My Home to Butch Hancock's Circumstance 40 minutes later this tight'n'tidy 10 song collection has much of the old...

Dave Alvin: Eleven Eleven (YepRoc)

Dave Alvin: Eleven Eleven (YepRoc)

The former Blaster (a band he shared with his brother Phil) has been delivering his earthy, rootsy blues out there on the road for decades now. He was briefly in X and the Gun Club, but mostly he's been taking his dusty, country-edged dark baritone to narratives about what he sees out there: railroads and desert highways, the losers and lost,...

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