The Flatlanders “Treasure of Love” (Rack’em Records/Thirty Tigers)
Never has the tremulous twang that is unmistakably Jimmie Dale Gilmore been more welcome than after a year and a half of pandemic strangeness.
Listening to The Flatlanders’ “Treasure of Love” is like strolling into a corner honky-tonk and discovering an old friend on the next barstool. Maybe a little grizzled, telling the same stories, but who cares? You’re together again.
Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock first hooked up almost 50 years ago. They’ve since performed together and separately, but The Flatlanders haven’t made an album in more than a decade. Somehow this one manages to sound fresh and relevant, even if the 15 tracks are mostly familiar. Recorded during the pandemic, the selections include tunes made famous by Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan and others, but the trio gives them all their signature Texas sound.
Gilmore takes the lead on the title track, lending a roadhouse whine to the George Jones classic. The tone changes to boot-scooting playful on Hancock’s “Mama Do the Kangaroo.” Another Hancock original, “Moanin’ of the Midnight Train,” features Ely belting out a bittersweet ode to the woman he misses ‘’every night or two.’’
A smattering of Flatlander friends including guitar wizard Robbie Gjersoe and Lloyd Maines on pedal steel fill out the sound.
They close the album with a rollicking version of “Sittin’ on Top of the World,” taking turns on vocals and Hancock’s expressive harmonica adding flair. It’s a tune that gets the crowd going at the group’s live gigs. Something, perhaps, to look forward to.