Joe Ely

Silver City – 2007 (Rack 'Em)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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As wonderful as The Flatlanders are, this all-star trio sometimes obscures the greatness of its individual members, which makes this such a surprisingly welcome revelation. It's an all-acoustic work, with Joe Ely singing, playing guitar and adding a little harmonica and percussion in various places.

Joel Guzman also contributes accordion. These 10 songs remind us once again what a truly commanding singer Ely is. One is tempted to call him the Chuck D. of country music because he sings with so much authority. But it's doubtful that most country music fans are eclectic enough to recognize this unlikely similarity.

Best of all, Ely never wastes his authoritative vocal presence on fluff. The opening title track tells the sad tale of one man who ends up losing nearly everything after taking his chances in the big city, while "Wounded Knee" offers up historical narrative in song. Butch Hancock may be the most esteemed songwriter in The Flatlanders, but Ely is no slouch himself. He wrote everything (the songs were actually written pre-Flatlanders, but recently recorded), and except for the sing-song feel of "Windy Windy Windy," there isn't a dud in the bunch. With "Silver City," Joe Ely comes up golden.