Americana role models create strongest post-reunion album to dateThe FlatlandersThe Flatlanders are now more a band than a legend, to inversely paraphrase the title of their first CD. By the time More a Legend Than a Band came out in 1990, it was primarily a historic document, drawn from the 1972 sessions of one of Texas’ earliest and short-lived alternative-country bands. But as the band members-Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore-began to have successful solo careers as singer-songwriters, interest grew in their long-forgotten Flatlanders roots.
Considering that the album that made the Flatlanders a legend in country music circles was cut in 1972, it's hard not to think of the trio -- featuring three of Texas' finest singer/songwriters, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock -- as a throwback to the Golden Age of Lone Star music in the 1970s and '80s that has somehow managed to survive into the 21st century. But the Flatlanders make it clear that they're still living in the here and now on their third album since reuniting in 2002, Hills and Valleys. The album begins with three songs that address contemporary tragedies in personal terms -- "Homeland Refugee" tells the tale of one man's struggle to get by after losing everything he owns in the financial meltdown, "Borderless Love" uses a relationship as a metaphor for the fence being constructed on the U.
You could spend a long time trying to find a band that has been around long enough to have a release that only came out on eight-track and is still viable and worth listening to. Or you could stop pondering and just go grab the latest release by the Flatlanders. With a history that dates back to the early ‘70s and a mountain of success as solo artists, it is always an event when the Flatlanders record.
Technically speaking, the Flatlanders' millennial reboot, 2002's bonhomous Now Again, constitutes Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, and Butch Hancock's sophomore slump. After all, the three musketeers' original sessions from 1971 and 1972, bronzed for posterity decades later by Rounder Records' More a Legend Than a Band, produced West Texas mysticism more a secret handshake than a music legend, yet still a Lone Star singer-songwriter standard. In primary vocalist Gilmore's tremulous croon – sharing the spotlight with the musical saw and buttressed by the compositional wit and wisdom of Hancock and Ely's firestarter command – blew the state's "South Wind of Summer," put into song for Now Again.