City Winery Boston, hosted The Flatlanders November 15 2019 by Michael Lasalandra
Michael Lasalandra is a music fan and an artist who paints portraits of musicians, among other subjects. His work can be seen at www.mlasalandra.com
From the Cleveland show a day or two earlier:
Texas troubadours The Flatlanders — more a legend than a band — made a rare Boston appearance Nov. 15 at City Winery, delighting a sold-out crowd of hard-core fans, most of whom had not seen them in years.
The Flatlanders formed in Lubbock, Texas in 1972 and recorded an album. However, it wasn’t released in the United States for 20 years. The band disbanded after a year without achieving commercial success, but each of the three members forged strong solo careers. In 1990, their original 1972 recording was re-released under the title More a Legend Than a Band. The members have been playing and recording together sporadically ever since.
The Flatlanders are Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock. Ely, who is in the rockabilly vein, provides the band’s balls. Gilmore, a zen-like country singer, is the heart. And Hancock, more in the folk tradition, is the intellect. They are the very definition of roots music and are considered the fathers of the alt-country movement.
While each of the three is viable as a solo artist, in their case the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. They make a great team.
The three sat on stools, each playing an acoustic guitar. Stellar electric lead work was provided by guitarist Robbie Gjersoe, who has been with them for years. Although the three have written songs together, mostly they each write their own songs and the trio plays them as a unit. Often, each member will take a verse and then join together in the chorus. Their harmonies, featuring Gilmore’s distinctive high and lonesome vocal style, are spotless. Gilmore’s unusual voice is an instrument of its own.
The band played a variety of old songs, new songs and covers. They finished with Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner Blues.”
Many of their songs seem to focus on subjects that embody Texas — the Dust Bowl, the Mexican border, life on the road, trains, and so forth. Songs on those themes included “Borderless Love,” “Homeland Refugee,” “Thank God for the Road” and “The Highway is My Home.”
The lifelong friends have a warm rapport with each other, and seem to particularly enjoy singing each other’s songs. For example, Ely started out the night singing Gilmore’s “Dallas,” probably the band’s signature song. Gilmore and Hancock later took verses themselves. They also enjoy telling old jokes that certainly make them laugh.
“We’ve known each other for about 100 years,” said Gilmore. “We grew up in Lubbock. Anybody here ever been to Lubbock?”
When a number of people in the audience answered in the affirmative, Gilmore looked shocked and blurted out: “Why?”
Actually, there must be something in the water in Lubbock, as the dusty town in the flatlands of West Texas has spawned all sorts of musical greatness, including Buddy Holly, Delbert McClinton, Natalie Maines (of the Dixie Chicks) and others.
These three are musical icons and national treasures and, as all are in their 70s, probably won’t be playing too much longer. If you get a chance to see them, do it.
Baby Do You Love Me Still?
Wavin’ My Heart Goodbye
Nites Are Cold
Keeper of the Mountain
Thank God for the Road
Highway is My Home
Hopes Up High
Tonight I’m Gonna Go Downtown
See the Way
White Freightliner Blues
Nov 18 Nashville City Winery
Nov 22 Houston The Heights Theatre
Michael Lasalandra is an avid music fan and an artist who paints portraits of musicians, among other subjects. His work can be seen at mlasalandra.com.