JOURNAL: Previous | Next | Current | Index

06 November 2001

Joe Ely at the Mucky Duck

Joe Ely's show at the Mucky Duck last night was, as his shows there tend to be, a real treat. Originally billed as a solo acoustic show, Joe actually played with accordionist Joel Guzman. Previously, the two had collaborated in the Grammy-award-winning group Los Super Seven. I've been hearing some great things about Ely's new band, primarily because of the addition of Guzman. Last night they stripped away everything superfluous, and Joe sat and sang his stories and Joel played the accordion and the sound was yet another transformation for Ely, as the accordion added a strong Tejano flair to his music (a presence that has always been there, as my good friend and music guru David Hamby noted in an email yesterday).

Over the years, Joe Ely has brought some damn fine musicians into various configurations of his band -- from legendary Lloyd Maines and his pedal steel to guitar wizards Jesse Taylor and David Grissom to flamenco guitarist Teye. Now, Joel Guzman is Ely's latest collaborator, and its a good fit, because Guzman is REALLY good, and really good live -- and Joe loves to play onstage. I've never seen Joe Ely when he didn't throw himself 100% into the show. When he's onstage he just exudes the happiness of a man doing what he wants to do (in his case, strumming a guitar, jamming with fellow musicians, and telling stories about life in Texas and life in general). Although he's put together some fine albums, they just don't capture his stage presence.

Ely just keeps getting better, and I think part of the reason is that he is not threatened by other musicians. He's a man who is comfortable with who he is musically, but still willing to grow. Hence the recruitment of really talented musicians to his band over the years, and his willingness to share the stage and spotlight with them (and even to step back on occasion to let them show off) -- a nice contrast with other artists I've seen lately (or even some bloggers! *smile*). Hence the work with Los Super Seven and, many years earlier, the Clash, and even before that, the Flatlanders (more a legend than a band!).

I once read a reviewer who noted that Joe Ely is the equivalent of Bruce Springsteen or John Cougar Mellencamp had they never "made it big" and I think there's some truth to that. Joe Ely is just too damn busy doing what he seems to love to care about all that. Although people in the know understand -- even people like Springsteen, who sings backing vocals on what is probably Ely's best album. And people like me, who try never to miss a show when he's in town.

We had great seats for both shows at the Duck, and I could literally have reached out and plucked his guitar strings (in fact, during one song I was a little worried he might bonk me on the head, as Joe sometimes gets a little enthusiastic on stage *understatement*). I was pleased that he did a request of mine (Terry Allen's Gimme A Ride to Heaven Boy, a hilarious song that Joe has made his own, and which suits his story-telling style perfectly), and of course all of the required ones (well, many of the required ones -- he's done so many great songs of his own, let alone the Butch Hancock/Jimmie Dale Gilmore/Flatlanders' stuff -- that it's hard to do them all): Gallo del Cielo, Ranches and River, Up On The Ridge (really good live), She Never Spoke Spanish to Me, The Road Goes On Forever, Dallas, Me and Billy the Kid (another great story!), Dallas, etc. Unfortunately, he did not perform Letter to Laredo (really better suited to his full band). But he did close with a twist, peforming This Land Is Your Land. When everyone is wrapping themselves around the flag and "God Bless America," leave it to Ely to turn to Woody Guthrie to make a distinctly American statement of his own.

I'm already looking forward to the next Mucky Duck show (and love that he will still play such an intimate venue -- kudos to Rusty for bringing him in). I just hope it's not another year-and-a-half wait!

[Posted @ 12:23 AM CST]

Powered By Greymatter

If you can read this, your browser does not fully comply with standards. You can still view the site via the navigation bar below.

Reductio (old) | Journal | Glossary | Search | Bio | Photos | Disclaimer