Since first forming in Lubbock, Texas in 1972, The Flatlanders (Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock) have been playing their own distinct brand of country/ rock and roll/ blues/ blue grass/and folk music. Along the way they have earned plenty of accolades, but have barely dented the homogenized corporate radio format that is contemporary country. It is fitting then that The Flatlanders have repeatedly found a welcome audience in such Midwest venues as the Old Town School of Folk Music which, since its own founding some fifty-five years ago, has consistently promoted great music across a wide range of genres.
Last Friday then marked a triumphant return of sorts as The Flatlanders tore through their extensive music catalog. Playing back to back shows, they tugged at the country heart strings with subtle classic hits like Not That Much Has Changed then showcased their rock and roll sensibilities with offerings such as Sittin’ on Top of The World (and brought down the roof in the process). With forty years of material to mine, The Flatlanders were able to dig deep to bring to the surface works originally included in a three-track demo tape recorded in Odessa, Texas in 1972. From that album stemmed the gem Rose from The Mountain (later released in the 1991 album More A Legend than A Band). Throughout the night the audience appeared genuinely appreciative of the band and were more content to cheer them on than to try to label them. The audience also enjoyed the few stories given by the band including one memorable tale about picking up a hitchhiking Townes Van Zandt. Joining The Flatlanders on stage for select numbers was a back up band that complemented well their up tempo sound.
The overall sentiment of the night might have been best summed up by opening act Jason Eady’s clever song AM Country Heaven (“These days we’re in AM country heaven and FM country hell”). Last Friday I got a taste of that AM country heaven and I am not looking forward to returning any time soon to FM hell.
In addition to pining about an AM country heaven, Jason Eady also sang about bad men in desperate situations (with Jesus making frequent cameo appearances). Given Eady’s plain spoken mannerisms and deep, engaging voice, I would recommend him to any fan of classic country music.
To check out other concerts at the Old Town School of Folk Music click here: http://www.oldtownschool.org/concerts/
Top photo provided by Old Town School of Folk Music. All other photos by Noel Schecter