The Austin Chronicle

Joe Ely & Reckless Kelly: A Combo That Works!

By Jim Caligiuri, May 11, 2007, 4:14pm, Earache!

The e-mail that Reckless Kelly's publicist sent out said they started at 8pm, so imagine my surprise to find that they'd been onstage 45 minutes when I arrived at the Glenn at a quarter to the hour Thursday night. No loss, really. I was never that big a fan of RK's brand of country rock, and the two songs I heard last night - they opened with an acoustic, sit-down set - didn't leave much of an impression one way or another.

I was really there to see how the quintet's pairing with longtime fave Joe Ely would rate. Of late, the Flatlander hasn't performed nearly enough electric solo shows - the reason some call him the Bruce Springsteen of Texas - and I needed a healthy dose of his dynamic, muscular sound.

The combination not only worked, it was a sweaty success. Ely, who recently turned 60, obviously fed off the Braun brothers' youthfulness. He also drove them to places they might not ordinarily go. The 90-minute set was filled with Ely's crowd-pleasers and drew from the breadth of his career. Highlights included a soaring "Up on the Ridge," an amped up "Me & Billy the Kid," and an extended set-closing "Cool Rockin' Loretta" that showed off the Reckless Kelly boys at their brawny best. There were also a couple of nods to Townes Van Zandt, with a softly shuffled "Tecumseh Valley" and "White Freight Liner" presented as a broke-down ramble. Ely's true gift is that no matter how many times he's played these songs before, they always sound fresh and authentic, much of which is due to his alluring stage presence and the unstoppable musicality of his songs.

An encore that finished with a sing-along of Buddy Holly's "Oh, Boy!" left everyone sated. For me, Ely's comment early in the show that "this is all about good friends getting together and making music" rang especially true.

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