The Flatlanders: Live Last Night
"Hills and Valleys," the new Flatlanders album, has the perfect title. Watching the trio open a two-night stand at the Birchmere last night, one only wondered why it took them so long to use it.
Entering something like their 37th year of existence, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore exude a timeless sheen, a kind of immutable connection with their music that was apparent even when they played songs from their new disc. But it was the rising and falling of the 90 minute set -- aided by a spontaneous and scorching appearance from Bill Kirchen -- that lent it an understated majesty.
(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)
Much of the band's mythic status comes from songs recorded in the early 1970s; since resuming regular activity in 2002, they have kept those compositions in their live shows.
Last night, however, the Flatlanders offered only Gilmore's winsome "Dallas" (turned into a sinewy blues version) from that enchanted period, drawing the bulk of the set from more recent work.
From Hancock's vocals on "Borderless Love" and the surging "Julia" to Ely's pensive "Homeland Refugee" and Gilmore's quietly wavering "After the Storm," the set never misfired.
It did crackle a lot, not only because of a sharp backing band (led by guitarist Robbie Gjersoe), but also when Kirchen leapt from a stage-side table, strapped on a Fender and tore into "Sowing on the Mountain" (a raucous reworking of a Woody Guthrie tune) and Townes Van Zandt's "White Freightliner Blues."
Fittingly, the set's highlight came from a shifty, mid-tempo number: "No Way I'll Never Need You" rose and dipped with a suppleness that wasn't really country, Tex-Mex, folk or rock-and-roll. It was simply a Flatlanders tune and sometimes, those are the only kind that will do.
-- PATRICK FOSTER
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Posted by: Annandale | April 20, 2009 9:27 PM
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