The Flatlanders

Hills and Valleys (New West)

Texas Platters

The Flatlanders

Hills and Valleys (New West)

Technically speaking, the Flatlanders' millennial reboot, 2002's bonhomous Now Again, constitutes Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, and Butch Hancock's sophomore slump. After all, the three musketeers' original sessions from 1971 and 1972, bronzed for posterity decades later by Rounder Records' More a Legend Than a Band, produced West Texas mysticism more a secret handshake than a music legend, yet still a Lone Star singer-songwriter standard. In primary vocalist Gilmore's tremulous croon – sharing the spotlight with the musical saw and buttressed by the compositional wit and wisdom of Hancock and Ely's firestarter command – blew the state's "South Wind of Summer," put into song for Now Again. Its 2004 follow-up, Wheels of Fortune, proved too much too soon, the album's spokes falling off after two years of touring that followed 30 years of occasional Flatlanders reunions. Hills and Valleys is the disc the whole shootin' match has been building toward. The culmination of the three amigos' lifelong collaboration ­– vocally, musically, ideologically, sequentially – Hills and Valleys, not unlike Bruce Springsteen's Working on a Dream in relation to the three E Street Band LPs since 2002, crowns the group's decade. Manned by fellow Lubbock émigré and steel-string sage Lloyd Maines, as opposed to Ely, who produced the last two albums, Hills and Valleys rides a line the Southern Pacific Railroad would envy. Writing together where previously each songsmith mostly submitted his own material, Gilmore/Ely/Hancock's first six salvos here are their best run yet, opener "Homeland Refugee" a modern Woody Guthrie standard, rollicking follower "Borderless Love" basically another, and "After the Storm" in the third spot reiterating why Gilmore was the act's original singer. No. 6 slot, "Just About Time," perfects the Flatlanders' campfire bump and grind. From there, Mr. This Guitar Kills Fascists (Guthrie) lends the threesome his hillbilly jaunt, "Sowing on the Mountain," while Gilmore's son Colin lands the album's shooting star, "The Way We Are." Master craftsmen Rob Gjersoe (guitar), Glenn Fukunaga (bass), Rafael Gayol (drums), and Joel Guzman (accordion), not to mention original Flatlander Steve Wesson, whose saw on "Cry for Freedom" lends the Gilmore/Ely/Hancock lament an almost West African quality, hum at cricket frequencies. Closer "There's Never Been" catalogs nature's larger truths. Count the Flatlanders on that roll call.


A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More the Flatlanders
Texas Platters
The Flatlanders
The Odessa Tapes (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Sept. 7, 2012

Off the Record
Off the Record
Music News

Austin Powell, Jan. 1, 2010

More Music Reviews
Faster Than Sound: Patti Smith and Bikini Kill in One Weekend
Patti Smith and Bikini Kill in One Weekend
Lighting strikes twice in Austin, and Pleasure Venom opens

Rachel Rascoe, May 13, 2022

Dispatches From a New Decade of SXSW
Dispatches From a New Decade of SXSW
Our favorite musical moments from the fest

Kevin Curtin, March 25, 2022

More by Raoul Hernandez
Review: Haunter’s <i>Discarnate Ails</i>
Review: Haunter’s Discarnate Ails
A three-song behemoth from Central Texas death metal unit debut on Profound Lore

May 20, 2022

William Basinski Proves a Rock Star of Experimental Sound
William Basinski Proves a Rock Star of Experimental Sound
Texan auditory stud beguiles Elysium prior to lunar eclipse

May 16, 2022


the Flatlanders

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle