Joe Ely Record Review
Panhandle Rambler (Rack 'Em)
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Sept. 18, 2015
While a multitude of Joe Ely compositions evoke West Texas and the wide open spaces surrounding Lubbock where he learned his trade, Panhandle Rambler pulls up as a suite, an homage to that flat, dusty landscape and those who inhabit them. Having published a novel last fall, Reverb, and continuing to dig into his tape vault with a couple of commendable archive releases including a duet with Linda Ronstadt, he still found time to pen 10 of the 12 songs here. Given that the pair of covers rep Butch Hancock and Guy Clark, the staunch Austinite never stops keeping good company. "Wonderin' Where" sets the scene of a canyon filled with radio towers swaying in the wind and bringing the sounds that fuel dreams and prompt occasional nightmares. The two-steppin' "Here's to the Weary" tributes heroes like Woody Guthrie, Bob Wills, and Muddy Waters, whose nighttime music soothed souls "weary and restless." Set closer "You Saved Me," a love song to his wife Sharon although unnamed, is beautiful and stirring. Recalling past work, including one of his most famous tunes, "All Just to Get to You," it chugs along on slide guitar wails and Ely honoring all the good between them with a premium amount of heat. Recorded in Austin and Nashville with some of the best players from both cities – Lloyd Maines, Davis McLarty, Joel Guzman, Warren Hood, Rob Gjersoe, Dave Roe, Gary Nicholson, and Kenny Vaughan – Joe Ely brings the desolation of Texas plains to life in a manner that's profoundly inspired.