Up the Flatland Stairs (Howlin' Dog)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., June 29, 2018
Bob Livingston helped define Austin's progressive country sound in the Seventies, but the Lost Gonzo Band co-founder has done his best work this century. On 2003's Mahatma Gandhi & Sitting Bull and 2011's Gypsy Alibi, Livingston unrolled an increasingly eclectic and far-reaching sound while remaining true to his Lubbock songwriter roots and soothing tenor. The 17 tracks stomping Up the Flatland Stairs offer an impressive, if noncohesive collection of covers, co-writes, and originals. His ear for digging others' deep cuts exhumes Jerry Jeff Walker's "Shell Game" with a Dylan-esque harmonica at the outset, and cuts of David Halley's rocking "A Month of Somedays" and Walter Hyatt's swooning "The Early Days" shine. Gonzo Band classic "Public Domain" swings impeccably tight, but duets with Eliza Gilkyson ("That's the Way Things Go") and Kelley Mickwee ("Cowgirl's Lullaby") shade tenderly, and Bud Shrake piano ballad co-write "We Should Have Stayed" serves up a late-album highlight. Livingston's song instincts remain impeccable no matter the style.