The Flatlanders’ Centennial
Whole Hogg with the Lubbock trio’s “Borderless Love”
By Raoul Hernandez,
2:30PM, Mon. Jun. 27, 2016
“Right where, right where I belong / It feels so good I might be right where I belong.” During their 90-minute hootenanny Friday at Hogg Auditorium, the Flatlanders revisited a mantra on new millennial restart Now Again. Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore were flesh again, but the meeting of band and vintage venue set in stone true folk grandeur.
Not quite halfway through the main set, the Lubbock trio’s frontman – Gilmore – looked back over to his right at Ely, whom he’d already been giving a soulful look during the bandleader’s preceding “The Highway Is My Home,” thrillingly floored by longtime Robert Earl Keen guitarist Rich Brotherton in his Flatlanders debut.
“We’ve been friends more than 100 years now,” said the singer, who’d pointed it out in the past.
Ely nodded off-handedly, all poker face, but the many hundreds filling UT’s original theatre of 1933 laughed with gusto. A house full of veteran Austinites had already been served saloon salute “I Had My Hopes Up High,” West Texas anthem “The Wind’s Dominion,” and Gilmore’s country greeting “Waving My Heart Goodbye” right out of the chute. Audience and entertainers were loose, the backing band not to be trifled with (Brotherton, drummer Pat Manske, and bassist Jimmy Pettit), and the compositional roulette to draw from as thrilling as the Highwaymen or Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Mortal as a trio with the collective age of 210 could be, the Flatlanders nevertheless felt as perennial as the American Southwest.
Tractor philosopher, West Texas waltz instructor, and lord of the highway, Hancock chugged down “One Road More” while Ely and Gilmore sang harmonies to one another and unhinged hippies in the seats yelled the song’s refrain, “I ain’t got a lick of sense, I gotta crazy mind.” Their discography’s high-water mark, most recent studio LP Hills & Valleys (2009), yielded the evening’s best ringing endorsement from local taxpayers via “Borderless Love” (“There’s no need for a wall”). Then the frontman prefaced his jet-fueled Lone Star standard “Dallas” with a nagging detail.
“The very, very last DC-9 was taken out of commission,” revealed Gilmore.
Begun acoustic and near a cappella by he and Ely, the tune’s twin engines soon kicked in and the theatre went whole Hogg. Standing ovation. Lucinda Williams’ blues cry “Howlin’ at Midnight” and Terry Allen’s congregational kick in the pants, “Gimme a Ride to Heaven,” barreled like a freight train bound for glory ahead of a two-song encore in Hancock’s elegiac “If You Were a Bluebird” and raucous Flatlanders’ walk-off favorite, clanging/twanging/banging roots ancient “Sitting on Top of the World.”
Save room on the Mount Rushmore of Texas greats for the Flatlanders.