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Joe Ely
Live @ Antone’s

Having just recently seen Joe Ely in concert, I can tell you for a fact that this album is a true representation of what a show by this fiery Texan is all about. From the opener ("The Road Goes On Forever") to the encore (Buddy Holly’s "Oh Boy!") this is as good as a show from Ely’s current tour. There are no real surprises, but when the familiar is of as high a caliber as this set is, who really needs the unknown anyway? Ely’s own material (like "Me and Billy the Kid") is almost as good as the winners he covers. He performs the definitive take on Tom Russell’s cowboy anthem "Gallo del Cielo," and knows what he’s talking about when he lays into Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s "Dallas." The band Ely takes with him on the road is like a well-oiled machine; one that can pick up a lot of speed in a hurry, and also make a whole slew of noise. Most notably, is the steel guitar work of Lloyd Maines, and the spicy Flamenco guitar fills from Teye. This music is–and always has been–beyond categorization. When Ely rocks, he really rocks—not that polished stuff coming out of Nashville trying to pass for rock. And when he nears the border for a little Tex-Mex ("Ranches and Rivers") the listener feels like he or she is right there. His communal connection to his audience cannot be captured on album, though. At an Ely show, it’s similar to a Springsteen concert, since Joe is clearly the leader and the audience is more than willing to follow him anywhere he goes. One imagines if Buddy Holly had lived, he’d probably be blurring the lines between rock and country as seamlessly as Ely does. When Ely puts a "live" stamp on one of his albums, it’s truly alive. —Dan MacIntosh

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