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The Flatlanders

Wheels of Fortune – 2004 (New West)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by The Flatlanders

The Flatlanders - Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock - recently reunited and released the highly successful album, "Now Again." Now they're back with another new album, recorded last March after their tour ended.

The album has a feel of having been thrown together - there's no cohesive sound. For example, we get Gilmore sweetly singing the acoustic title track, immediately followed by loud electric bass and guitar on Ely's blues-rock romp "Midnight Train." Until the last track, "See the Way," on which all three Flatlanders take turns singing a verse, the album just feels like a hodgepodge of disparate tracks. You never know what musical surprise you're going to get next.The performances here are all first-rate - the singers sound as good as ever, especially Gilmore's quavering twang on the Tex-Mex "Wishing for You," and the band does a consistently great job with the wide range of styles.

But the songwriting doesn't measure up to these artists' past work. The album is filled with lines like, "It's more than you'd ever do in a squeeze/And it ain't nothin' to sneeze at." One entire Ely song is built around the line, "I'm gonna strangle you, Shorty/Lordy, Lordy, Lordy."

In the end, this is an appealing album musically, but the lack of lyrical depth turns that initial appeal to frustration.