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 Photo by: Will Van Overbeek

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The Flatlanders
Flatlanders interview

The Flatlanders
Now Again

2002, New West

Every time I hear the name “The Flatlanders” it is preceeded by “The Legendary,” so I just assumed that I had missed a raft of their albums the first time around. The fact that Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock only played together under that name for a few years before pursuing solo careers comes as quite a surprise. During their time together they only produced one exceptional but commercially stillborn album. (It was re-released in 1990 by Rounder Records under the title More A Legend Than A Band.) They have remained kindred spirits over the years and have helped create and define that special blend of music created by Texas singer-songwriters. The big skies and deadly heat combine with rock & roll, cowboy poetry and Tex-Mex culture to create roadhouse friendly music. This languorous and funky sound comes to the band as easily as sweating. Lyrically, they often dwell where the earth meets the sky.

The first impression Now Again makes is that these guys can really play. The songs sound like they wrote themselves while the tape was rolling. At this point just going along for the ride is more than enough fun. Then wham! They nail down three killer songs in a row that you know won’t be leaving your head for days. “My Wildest Dreams Grow Wilder Every Day” features the megaphone tenor of Jimmie Dale Gilmore in a straight-ahead Western Swing. “I Thought The Wreck Was Over” rolls like an eighteen-wheeler speeding through a perpetually stormy relationship. “Yesterday Was Judgement Day” is a split personality apocalyptic song covering the event from Christian, shamanistic and Zen points of view and asking “how did you fare?”

“Pay the Alligator” sounds like it was written on a songwriter’s dare to come up with rhymes for alligator. The results are accelerator, about-it-later, perpetrator and the incomparable line “Go blindfolded backwards through the discombobulator.” Obviously this song was lots of fun to write and play, but even the more serious cuts on this album exude the joy of making quality music with friends. Talk of legends aside, Now Again is an album to enjoy again and again, and hope that they get together again, whenever they can.—Mike Devlin

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