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From the Country Standard Time Archives

With Joe Ely on stage, there's no place else you'd rather be

The Troubadour, Hollywood, Cal., June 25, 1998

By Dan MacIntosh

HOLLYWOOD, CA - After finishing "You're Workin' For The Man (and You Ain't Breakin' Even)" from his latest album "Twistin' In The Wind," Joe Ely told a funny story about the time he worked as a roofer with his guitarist Jesse Taylor.

The division of labor had Ely tearing off the old shingles and Taylor hammering down the new ones. Ely didn't last long at this gig, though, because his boss came to check up on their work, only to notice that Ely had been stripping the shingles off the wrong roof.

Ely's construction work (although deconstruction is really a better word for it) is now limited to raising roofs with his passionate singing and playing of the superior songs he's written or borrowed from friends. And on this particularly warm summer night, Ely certainly had the shingles of The Troubadour shaking.

Flanked by the acoustic flamenco sounds of Taye on his right, and the blues-powered electric leads of Jesse Taylor to his left, Ely put on a powerful display of singing and playing. His band churned with a lot of heart, and Ely sang like he meant every word.

Credit must also be given to the soundman, since the acoustic and electric elements merged together beautifully this night, and the amplified instrumentation never once drowned out the acoustic elements.

The set list was drawn primarily from Ely's new one, and his previous effort "Letter To Laredo." Taye's Flamenco work helped to set the mood for the fist half of the show, and with songs like "Gallo Del Cielo" and "Letter to Laredo," if felt a lot like being inside an enthralling Spaghetti Western.

At the midpoint, both Ely and Taye took a break to allow Taylor have a go at a couple of blues numbers. Ely then returned with an electric guitar for the final stretch, reaching into his back catalog for a few older songs, like "Me and Billy the Kid" from "Lord Of The Highway" and "For Your Love" from "Dig All Night." He even found room for a cover of fellow Texan Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy."

It was shortly after midnight-after Ely had been on stage for nearly two hours-that he closed out the night with a rousing version of "Fingernails." His sweat-soaked shirt hung un-tucked over his pants as Ely continued to poor every ounce of energy left in him into this finale.

A live Ely concert goes a long way explaining why folks like Bruce Springsteen have been guests on his albums and why a great old punk band like The Clash once had him as an opening act. When Ely is on stage, you feel like there is no place else in the world you'd rather be.