Show Reviews

    The Flatlanders Live

    76
    Flatlanders

    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:

    From the video channel of Kim Yanoshik

    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.

    Set List
    Dallas
    Baby Do You Love Me Still?
    Wavin’ My Heart Goodbye
    Homeland Refugee
    Julia
    Nites Are Cold
    Keeper of the Mountain
    Thank God for the Road
    Highway is My Home
    Going Away
    Hopes Up High
    Tonight I’m Gonna Go Downtown
    Indian Cowboy
    Borderless Love
    See the Way
    Midnight Train

    Encore
    White Freightliner Blues

    Upcoming shows
    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.