The Flatlanders: Hills and Valleys (New West)

 |   |  <1 min read

The Flatlanders: Sowing on the Mountain
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 Homeland Refugee which is as a harrowing and true reflection of hard time in contemporary America after the sub-prime mortgage crash as you'll want to hear as it reverses Woody Guthrie: "I'm leaving California for the Dust Bowl, there's nowhere else left to go . . . there's refugees behind the abandoned Texaco, we nod and know we're all the same".

And later there is strong material from the rocking The Way We Are from Gilmore to Hancock's Thank God for the Road, but material like Borderless Love (a well-intentioned Tex-Mex take on that wall between the States and Mexico) sounds limp and flat in the comparison.

Gilmore on After the Storm conjures up little of the magic he is capable of (yes, aching and lovely, but that comes easy when you have a voice like his) and Wishing for a Rainbow is yet another watery, sentimental piece. And there are more like it.

So, uneven -- as have been all their albums since that debut all those decades ago. But fans -- and there are quite rightly very many -- will find much to enjoy here. 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Karen Hunter: Inside Outside (Rawfishsalad)

Karen Hunter: Inside Outside (Rawfishsalad)

As a performer, Auckland singer-songwriter Hunter is one of the most assured we've got. She shifts effortlessly from acoustic cafe to the festival circuit in Canada, bars in Australia and... > Read more

Guy Clark: Workbench Songs (Dualtone)

Guy Clark: Workbench Songs (Dualtone)

Clark has been one of the pillars of West Texas/Mex-influenced singer-songwriters, and of his dozen or so albums at least half would be in any serious country and alt.country collection. For... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown and Billy Joel: Bad cop, good guy

Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown and Billy Joel: Bad cop, good guy

It was bluesman Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown who taught me a valuable lesson very early on: it was possible to like a man's music and not like the man who made it. Billy Joel confirmed the opposite:... > Read more

Cairns, Queensland: Getting away from it all

Cairns, Queensland: Getting away from it all

Nah, she said emphatically as our flight descended into Cairns. “I'm in the Atherton Tablelands now. Used to live here. Fifteen years. Got sick of the rat race.” Maybe Cairns... > Read more