Joe Ely - Live at Antones

Joe Ely
Live at Antones


First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2001, Volume 8, #1

Written by John Metzger


Joe Ely has been a cult-figure for a long time. His early '70s term in The Flatlanders with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock is now legendary, and his solo debut in 1977 only cemented his relationship with Americana music fans. Though he has inspired countless songwriters in the country, folk, and Tex-Mex genres, and though he has helped lay the groundwork for the alt-country movement, most of the nation still isn't really familiar with his body of work.

Unfortunately Live at Antones, Ely's third live album, isn't really going to do much to change this. Part of the problem is that the disc, which clocks in at a hefty 74 minutes, stretches on for far too long. Consequently, it gets bogged down under the weight of too much material. A cover of Buddy Holly's Oh Boy might make a nice set closer, but here it comes off as a rather routine gesture. A similar fate befalls the rowdy brawl Everybody Got Hammered, which plays more like Saturday night at the frat house than a tune from a revered songwriter; and the slow country ballad Rock, Salt, and Nails falls flat despite its weepy steel guitar refrains.

That's not to say that Live at Antones doesn't have its moments. Ely's rendition of Robert Earl Keen's The Road Goes on Forever is simply superb, and he tears into Workin' for the Man, turning into a rousing blue collar anthem. Likewise, he injects All Just to Get to You with a feisty force that connects his own music with that of fellow Texan Steve Earle. On the other hand, Thousand Miles from Home showcases Ely's tender side as his voice conveys the lonesome weariness of his lyrics.

Live at Antones, which was recorded over two consecutive nights at the esteemed Texas nightclub, does accurately replicate one of Ely's concerts. As such, it's probably something long-time fans will want to add to their collections. The uninitiated, however, might instead wish to delve into Live Shots, which was recorded during Ely's unlikely U.K. tour with The Clash. starstarstar

Live at Antones is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


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