Joe Ely

Happy Songs From Rattlesnake Gulch – 2007 (Rack 'Em)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Don't let this CD's title fool you: you won't find much happiness running through these pained tracks. Joe Ely is oftentimes an inspirational leader when singing his songs, which may be why guys like Bruce Springsteen gravitate to him. Not so with this effort, however; Katrina's horror haunts this recording like a howling banshee. "All I wanna do is get back home," cries a troubled character in "Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes," "instead of wastin' away at this Superdome."

Elsewhere, one called "So You Wanna Be Rich" questions our modern day quest for bling-bling with a snarl. Over blues guitar and soul horns Ely asks: "So you wanna be rich/Like the gangsters on MTV/Like the ones who run the lottery." Gratuitous wealth never sounded so unappealing, especially in light of New Orleans' recent suffering.

Overriding lyrical darkness makes the light Cajun gem, "Little Blossom," stand out all the more brightly. Although also set "down in New Orleans," it is a song of hope; blooming flowers represent new life. Throughout this collection, Ely sings these passionate songs with all the gusto they require. Although it is rarely happy, Ely's new music nonetheless offers comfort and hope for hurting ones.