Panhandle Rambler by Joe Ely

Panhandle Rambler by Joe Ely

“Tomorrow might find me on the road to Portales
Waiting for a phone call from the morgue in Nogales…”

From “Coyotes are Howlin’,” off Joe Ely’s recent Panhandle Rambler CD.

I would run into Joe Ely, over the years in Austin. I’ve seen him sing, live, a number of times, like an intimate setting once in Ft. Worth. Or Floores Country Store, rocking the house. Too many experiences muddled by time and fumes. See him getting coffee, at Jo’s in old South Austin. Run into him at the movie theatre.

The biggest obstacle with Ely’s canon of work? Unless you’re from a very specific part of the country, that simple line doesn’t really hold much information, “Tomorrow may find me on the road to Portales…”

Portales, NM – imagine a line between Lubbock and Amarillo, then, draw a line from both those towns, to Portales. It’s “just over the line” in New Mexcio, a tight little triangle. Been there. It’s lonely countryside. That New Mexico sky stretches forever.

Panhandle Rambler by Joe Ely

He’s got that high, lonesome voice, an Aquarius, at that, from Lubbock, originally. Part of the mythic Flatlanders – and a good writer, as he catches those elements that define my world.

The “Hard New Mexico Line” between West Texas and Eastern New Mexcio is a strange place, where the land meets the sky, and the myths are stronger than reality. Billy the Kid terriroty. Lincoln County War. Wide-open spaces.

Have to spend time out there to understand. Have to have “been there,” and obviously, as the author, Joe Ely has. Respect that. Respect place, form, function, wide open spaces.

Panhandle Rambler by Joe Ely

Me? I live in San Antonio these days, the gateway to South Texas. More so than Austin, much, much more so, there’s cross-cultural essence that infuses daily activities. Living in Austin, besides Doug Sahm, the Texas Tornados, and some oddball outlets, the accordion wasn’t an instrument of note. 90 miles south of Austin? The squeezebox is king. Guitar player in Austin? Squeezebox player in San Antonio, same deal. Same elevated status: the star.

So the laconic and almost idle strains of an accordion figure into several tunes, and there’s a natrual flow there. In my mind, the whole album is better than most, as Ely’s voice is strong, melliferous, fluent, and assured. No screaming, no reaching, just telling the story. There was a quiet confidence in the vocals.

It arrived as a birthday gift – great album.

Panhandle Rambler – Joe Ely

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