Joe Ely

Live Cactus – 2008 (Rack 'Em)

Reviewed by Steven Freedman

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As a country music "outlaw," Joe Ely has always stood out from the pack. On his latest, Ely has decided to forge an alliance with premier accordionist Joel Guzman, and the combination works.

This is not the typical Ely album with a lot of edginess. The live disc is a confluence of two excellent and distinct talents whose music covers a wide spectrum. With more than an hour of material available, there is a lot to choose from with the wispy balladry of "Up On the Ridge" and "Slow You Down" to the Tex-Mex infused "Letter to Laredo" and the bombastic rock of the Townes Van Zandt-penned "White Freightliner Blues." The adroit storytelling side of Ely is well represented here with the tale of "Miss Bonnie and Mr. Clyde" and for good measure, he throws in a little social commentary with "All That You Need."

As much as Ely shines on vocals and guitar and he does, Guzman plays one smokin' accordion. While this CD was made before an appreciative group of folks at the Cactus Cafe in Austin, it's also wonderful that it will reach a wider audience as well.