Joe Ely Live at Antone's (Rounder)
Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., June 30, 2000
Live at Antone's (Rounder)Is it true the only Joe Ely CDs worth owning are the live ones? Don't run out and hock that well-worn copy of Honky Tonk Masquerade, but if you're one of the many who never added Ely's 1998 exit bow for MCA, Twistin' in the Wind, to your collection, just go ahead and get Live at Antone's. Not every song enhances Ely's near-mythic live reputation -- "Nacho Mama," "Road Hawg," and "Everybody Got Hammered" are pretty rote -- but he still hits pay dirt more often than not. Recorded over two nights in January 1999, Antone's finds Ely in a more reflective mood than his two previous go-for-the-throat live efforts, but the way he brings "Workin' for the Man" and "Up on the Ridge" to a feverish simmer is still spine-tingling. "Rock Salt and Nails" is a fine lights-out number à la "Where Is My Love?" and Jimmie Dale Gilmore's "Dallas" just seems to get better with age. Robert Earl Keen's "The Road Goes on Forever" seems somewhat truncated at five minutes, but still seethes with Lloyd Maines' punchy steel guitar. Joel Guzman's accordion turns "Ranches and Rivers" into a ranchera to beat the band, and Teye's soaring flamenco guitar on "A Thousand Miles From Home" could make hardened felons weep. Now for the really good stuff; the way Teye, Guzman, Maines, drummer Rafael Gayol, bassist Gary Herman, and electric guitarist Jesse Taylor push and pull each other on "All Just to Get to You" and Tom Russell's cockfighting saga "Gallo del Cielo" is pure Texas magic, and closer "Oh Boy" only cements Ely's position as the finest Lone Star rock & roller since Charles Hardin Holly himself. Although the liner notes inexplicably call Antone's a "roadhouse," Ely's absolutely still got live if you want it -- and you do.