Donate Now to Support KDHX

Listen Live
Friday, 05 April 2013 13:54

Concert review: The Flatlanders (with Joe Pug) reunite, again, at the Old Rock House, Thursday, April 4

The Flatlanders at the Old Rock House The Flatlanders at the Old Rock House Daniel Costello
Written by Robin Wheeler
Rate this item
(0 votes)

The Flatlanders story reads like a Hollywood script - high school friends Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock formed a band in 1972 in Lubbock, Texas. They record an album, broke up before it was released, made their own successes in the music world, only to reunite 30 years later, lauded as innovators.

St. Louis regular Joe Pug started the night at the Old Rock House. While he often plays solo, he brought his band this time - electric guitarist Greg Tuohey and upright bassist Chris Merrill. The addition gave Pug's stripped-down, heartfelt folk a boost of twangy richness that blended his set into the Flatlanders' without a catch.

The Flatlanders didn't waste any time, the three principles on guitars and shared vocals, backed with two more guitarists and drums, tearing into Ely's rowdy Texas stomp, "I Had My Hopes Up High," trading verses with Gilmore and Hancock. Such was the theme through the night - songs each artist wrote and recorded, now morphed into cohesive group numbers with no fighting to be the star, no sacrifice to their individual voices and styles.

Gilmore, with his high tenor twang culled from the same soil as Willie Nelson, epitomized classic Texas style on "Wavin' My Heart Goodbye." Ely took a more rock and pop career path. His voice remains rich and sweet, tempered with the sharpness of slide guitar on "Not That Much Has Changed." Hancock's folk storytelling and image-rich lyrics match his rough voice on "Julia," over a soft bed of Ely and Gilmore's harmonies.

They introduced "Rose From the Mountain" as a song from their newest album which, "in perfect Flatlanders fashion was recorded in January, 1972." It's hard to imagine this song about ruined recording dreams coming from these men when they were in their 20s, as it fits so well with 41 extra years of wisdom behind it.

The band's "The Way We Are" and Hancock's "Thank God for the Road" highlighted their taut harmonies, a sound that evoked a dry and windswept landscape under the slide's whistle. It sounded the way the west Texas landscape looks, tapping into the broad and soaring openness of the hot plains.

Before "Danglin' Diamond," the rest of the band left the core trio onstage to share some tales of their early attempt as a band. Then Hancock sang his classic western folk song that ventured into questions - what is time? What is truth? Done right, regionalism finds a universal truth from a specific place. Hancock's composition questioned from the heart of the wilderness of his birth.

Through their scattered careers, the Flatlanders kept tethers to each other through sharing the songs they'd written. Gilmore's song "Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown" was a hit for Ely in the'70s. Last night, they took turns singing the verses as a soft duet. Gilmore's "Dallas" was recorded in that first Flatlanders session. His eventual solo version is one of the best songs of his career, but with the addition of his friends singing harmony on the chorus, it turns from high lonesome honky-tonk to a battle cry. Watch out when Jimmie Dale's got his posse back in tow.

They wound up their set with "Pay the Alligator," a riled-up, bad-behavior party anthem from their first reunion album, released in 2002.

The Flatlanders either underestimated how excited people would be to see them on their first night out, or they have the showbiz smarts to leave their audience begging for more, as they ended with a lone encore - a cover of Terry Allen's crook-disguised-as-Jesus road ballad, "Gimme a Ride to Heaven." They ended the song with a roaring five-guitar onslaught; no wonder they influenced punk rock, with Ely embraced by Joe Strummer.

Call it what you want - alt country, Americana, roots rock. The Flatlanders invented it and, lucky us, they continue to perfect it as they move through their late years.

Upcoming Concerts

Sponsor Message

Become a Sponsor

Find KDHX Online

KDHX on Instagram
KDHX on YouTube
KDHX on SoundCloud
KDHX on Facebook
KDHX on Twitter
KDHX on flickr

Local Artist Spotlight


The Mound City Slickers

Mon August 4

The Driftaways

Mon July 28
The Driftaways are a seven-man reggae band hailing from St. Louis. Their E.P. "Don't Hide" is full of high-energy jams and groovy improvisations that give the band's music a good-time vibe. Download their…

88.1 KDHX Shows

m-grill.jpg

KDHX Recommends

August
Friday
29

Small Black, Scarlet Tanager

KDHX welcomes Small Black to the Ready Room, with Scarlet Tanager. This event is all ages.


August
Saturday
30

Cave States at Harvest Sessions 2014

Cave States at Harvest Sessions 2014 Cave States makes its debut live performance at Harvest Sessions this week. The acoustic Americana band features veteran St. Louis musicians Danny Kathriner, Chris Grabau, Todd Schnitzer, John Higgins and John Horton. This free...


September
Friday
05

Art Outside

Art Outside is not an ordinary fair, but one that features art, music and plenty of food and drink from Schlafly Beer. Hosted at the brewery’s Bottleworks location in Maplewood, Missouri, Art Outside draws approximately 15,000...


Get Answers!

If you have questions or need to contact KDHX, visit our answers portal at answers.kdhx.org.

Online Users

13 users and 13513 guests online
Sign in with Facebook

SYSTEM: S5 Box

Login/My Account

Sign in with Facebook