Good news, bad news
Kenny Mathieson welcomes the return of country rock master Joe Ely.
There is good news and bad news for country and roots fans this issue. The good news is that both Austin-based country rocker Joe Ely and new country star Martina McBride play Glasgow gigs this month. The bad news is that they both do so on the same night.
It takes the breath away. really. Artists and promoters constantly go on about the problems of attracting audiences. then some genius makes sure that the only two visiting country artists in the month of March are in direct opposition. The really annoying thing is that McBride‘s date was originally announced for the following week. then changed. Somebody really tried Iran! to get it wrong.
Anyway. I know where H] be. and that is getting down with Joe Ely at King Tut‘s (sorry. Martina. maybe next time). Ely is one of the most exciting live performers on the roots music scene. and his recent Letter To Iarerla (Transatlantic) album is arguably his best since the classic early releases of the late 70s. still among the all-time great country rock albums.
He has returned to an acoustic sound for this one. with Lloyd Maines back in the fold on pedal steel and dobro. but with the addition of the Spanish guitarist Teye on. funnily enough. Spanish guitar. The combination works beautifully on a set of songs which evoke the Texas/Mexican border interaction of his West Texas upbringing.
Joe Ely: classic country rock
‘The Spanish thing happened more or less by accident. I spent some time in Southern Spain. in the area where llatnenco comes from. and I‘ve always loved the poetry of Garcia Lorca. I started to write some songs that tried to imagine the sons and daughters of the people he wrote about in modern America. but built around the riffs l had been hearing in Spain.
'Back in Austin. a friend of mine introduced me to Teye. who was more or less passing through. We played a couple of songs in my studio the night before he left. and I heard something very mysterious and different in them. especially when combined with steel guitar and dobro. I had laid down about ten tracks for the album. but i set them aside. got Teye back over. and we set to it. I grew tip listening to a lot of border music. and that has always been a part of
what I did, but we‘ve taken it further this time.‘
The results are a wonderful fusion of the raw energy which has always permeated his work (and which attracted The Clash to offer Ely‘s band a touring spot on the London Calling tour, an unlikely combination which he recalls as ‘a pretty wild time'), with a more earthy. roots feel. He revisits some old favourites (including the title track and Butch Hancock's entirely apposite ‘She Finally Spoke Spanish To
‘I spent sometime in Southern Spain, in the area where ﬂamenco comes from,, and I’ve always loved the poetry of Garcia lorca.’
Me‘) amid the new material. and lays down a gre at version of Tom Russell‘s epic story-song ‘Gallo «jel Cielo‘.
Ely hails from Lubbock. a hot-bed of West Tex as talent since a certain Buddy Holly roared out of there four decades ago. closely followed by Roy Orbison. Ely and Todd Snider contribute a gutsy ‘Oh, Boy’ to an otherwise rather underheated new tribute to Holly, Not Fade Away (MCA), and his music has always reflected the rock and roll roots of the town, alongside hard country and blues.
He was associated with a group of singer- songwriters that included Butch Hancock. Jimmy Dale Gilmore, and the inimitable rogue talent Terry Allen (whose latest opus, Human Remains (.‘Sugar Hill). is set for an end of February release). all of whom have remained at arms length from Nashville throughout their careers.
‘l've never followed what was going on i n Nashville, but when i look back now at wl ro was around in Music City when l was first ma'king records. hardly any ofthem are still recording . . . ‘
The Joe [Ely Band play at King Tut's on Tue [2; Martina McBride plays at the Srratlrclyrje Suite, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. also an 7 he 12.
Nige'l Clark turned from pop music to jazz because of its greater musical challenge, and has no regrets about making that change. The guitarist first assembled his quintet back in 1992, and has been gathering favourable reviews ever since, but now hopes the band are on the verge of a further boost following a successful recording session in Glasgow’s GaVa for their first CD.
‘We mostly used tunes we’ve been playing live, with a couple of new ones
Nigel Clark: freedom to explore
festival circuit next year.’
that people won’t have heard. We didn’t have a great deal of either rehearsal or recording time, so we didn’t change the arrangements much. I asked people which tunes they particularly wanted to solo on, and we basically just cut it live, with Graeme Duffin and Ian Morrow producing. ‘The tacilites were superb, and it has come out sounding as good as I hoped, and maybe even better. llot having a CD has held us back, and we hope to launch it in the autumn, and look for as many bookings as possible on the
The Guintet’s imaginative cross- genre fusions are firmly rooted in jazz, as are musicians Brian Kellock (keyboards), Tim Garland (saxes), and Mike Bradley (drums). The newest recruit is ex-Deacon Blue bassman Ewen Vernal, who replaced Andy
Mitchell last year, with. some noticeable effects, according to his leaden
‘Well, Ewen’s jokes are better than Andy’s! No, he plays tupright electric bass, and that has made a big difference to the ove:rall sound of the band. It gives us a greater range of options, especially ’ln terms of dynamics, and it has brought the sound closer to wh at I’ve always heard in my mind.
‘One of the main things about the band is that these: musicians enable me to have the freedom to go in any direction I want. In musical terms, we want to reflect t' he fact that we are now hurtling tov lard the mlllenlum, not stuck back in mild-century.’ (Kenny Mathieson)
The Allgel Glad r aulnfef play King Tut’s, Glasgow on Sun 10.
The List 8-21 Mar 1996 '33