The Flatlanders Album Review
Treasure of Love (Rack’em Records/Thirty Tigers)
Essential workers? Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock toiled through the pandemic, 15-hour days on a chain gang run by Lubbock warden Lloyd Maines, to bring Austin and the world these 15 songs in 51 minutes – their first in a dozen years. Fourth full-length since the trio reconvened at the start of this millennium after famously alchemizing in 1972 to produce sessions later titled More a Legend Than a Band, this Treasure of Love more than lives up to said COVID designation: essential. If forced to listen to one sole Flatlanders disc on your ventilator – take only one album to the leper colony of quarantine – this contemporary compendium reaped from across five decades of the Lubbock diaspora constitutes THE ultimate desert isle disc by triumvirate Ely/Gilmore/Hancock. Better still, Treasure of Love rolls out like a live performance, both in set list and sound. Covers traverse Flatlanders history, while Maines' studio detailing – buzzing solos, sanguine steel (his), glistening acoustics, dobro broad strokes – animate every note. Gilmore caresses Everly Brothers break-in "Long Time Gone," Hancock crystallizes his go-to Townes Van Zandt element "Snowin' on Raton," and Ely copyrights Hancock's "Ramblin' Man" for all time. Dylan from Gilmore ("She Belongs to Me"), an aching Ernest Tubb cheater's lament by Ely ("I Don't Blame You"), and Johnny Cash intoned by Hancock ("Give My Love to Rose") all land as real and true as UFOs (now UAPs) in the Panhandle. Three originals spine Treasure of Love: Hancock's pairing of "Moanin' of the Midnight Train" and bouncing LP sleeper "Mama Does the Kangaroo," and Ely's journeyman "Satin Shoes." The timeless former opens the proceedings alongside a searing six-string end solo by longtime Flatlanders shredder Robbie Gjersoe, while closer "Sittin' on Top of the World" reanimates country blues from the 1920s rollicked by the likes of Bill Monroe and Bob Wills, and rumbled famously by Howlin' Wolf. And let's not overlook a title gemstone penned by a pair of all-time Texans: George Jones and Jiles Perry Richardson Jr., aka the Big Bopper, who went down with Buddy Holly, Lubbock's original flatlander. Perfect in vision, voice, harmony – not to mention timing – Treasure of Love delivers quintessential Flatlanders.