Full Circle: The Lubbock Tapes (Rack 'Em)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Aug. 24, 2018
After the Flatlanders crashed and burned, or rather seeped back into the Panhandle, Athos retreated back home to Lubbock after sustaining three broken ribs as an animal wrangler for Ringling Brothers. Simple country instrumentation led by Lloyd Maines' lonesome steel leads the convalescence – a folk-rocker out in the wind, casting his deceptively calibrating tenor high and low in search of love and thrills. Four years later, 1978, Joe Ely returned to Caldwell Studios to demo his third major label giddyup, Down on the Drag. All told, these 15 tracks could qualify as a one-and-done if push comes to shove. From the moment Ely loosens a page out of Butch Hancock's book of West Texas anthems and Bob Wills' fiddler Curley Lawler cuts horse hair on "Windmills and Watertanks," Full Circle: The Lubbock Tapes spins truer than a high plains windmill. Six of the first nine tracks dissemble Hancockian poetics, delivered by their greatest proponent. Elvis accents to the chrome rockabilly of "Road Hawg," the small-town Saturday night of "Standin' at a Big Hotel," which got Ely signed to MCA, and another definitive performance of "If You Were a Bluebird" could pass for top-shelf Flatlanders. The second half pits guitar Hephaestus and ultimate foil Jesse Taylor against accordion master Ponty Bone on prime Joe Ely Band fare "Down on the Drag" and a slow-rolling "I Had My Hopes Up High" with an elastic Lone Star swagger missing from the LP itself. Thanks too to the horse that kicked some sense into Joe Ely.