Flatlanders deliver fine Texas music

from Kansas City Star on

“More a Legend Than a Band” is more than just the title of a Flatlanders album — it’s a fitting motto for a trio whose reputation is deeper and more vast than its history.

Wednesday night, the threesome — Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock — drew a large and appreciative crowd to Knuckleheads and treated everyone to an evening of song, musicianship, humor and reverie.

Like some Texas hippie-country version of Crosby Stills & Nash, the Flatlanders are an ensemble whose sum exceeds the value of its parts. Each man has had a respectable solo career, yet together they create music and conjure energy and a mood that is as endearing as it is enduring.

They also write about the state of the world and the people in it, like in the song “Homeland Refugee,” about someone ruined by the financial meltdown. The set list comprised about 20 songs, going all the way back to the band’s beginnings 40 years ago. Its song “Dallas” was released as an eight-track single in 1972 and then virtually ignored (prompting a hiatus/breakup that lasted more than 25 years).

“Dallas” fit in perfectly with the rest of the set, though, which focused heavily on the band’s previous two releases, including 2009’s “Hills and Valleys.” But no matter what they and their band (guitar plus rhythm section) played or who was singing or what style they were in (country, folk or rock), it all sounded sprung from the same soil.

Their vocal differences add a special flavor and texture to their songs: Gilmore’s reedy warble sounds a lot like Willie Nelson’s voice about 15 years ago; Ely’s growl is suited for the rowdier, rock-ish music he tends to favor; Hancock’s has the grit of a Texas folk troubadour.

They would pass the vocal baton back and forth all night, sometimes within a song, enriching the feel that they are a true ensemble, not just three guys swapping songs among each other.

I could go on the stock whine about country music and what passes for it these days, but that would be a sermon to the choir. This was Texas music at its finest and most diverse.

The highlights started right off the bat with Ely’s rollicking opener, “I Had My Hopes Up High.” Hancock followed with one of his own tunes, “Wind’s Dominion,” and then Gilmore weighed in with “Wavin’ My Heart Goodbye.”

And so it went, loosely, for the rest of the show, which swung and swayed from folk to rocking Texas blues to mid-tempo country ballads. They paid tribute to fellow Texan Townes Van Zandt (“Snowin’ on Raton”) and covered Lefty Frizzell (“Saginaw, Michigan”).

It was all good, but they saved the best for last: “Dallas,” then a rip-snorting rendition of “Sittin’ on Top of the World,” featuring guest Paul Cebar on guitar, a lovely version of “If You Were a Bluebird,” then a showstopping (and -ending) cover of Terry Allen’s “Give

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Eryaman Odtülüler Dershanesi