By Darryl Morden
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Though
he headlined Monday's latest installment of the new Rockin' Country
Night series at the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip, Joe Ely's
performance was acoustic and solo.
But that didn't keep the Texas
legend from fanning sparks to catch fire. While he strummed fiercely at times on
guitar, and also played harmonica, Ely's bellowing high-plains voice
rang clear throughout the club. Both a gifted songwriter and
stunning interpreter, he drew from his own recordings of the past
three decades and the work of many of his fellow Lone Star State
He was full of bluster for his wry Western
tale "Me and Billy the Kid" and offered a gentle reading of "If You
Were a Bluebird," written by his longtime Flatlanders band mate and
Lubbock pal Butch Hancock.
Ely truly is Texas music, in a tradition of
tall tales and heartrending vignettes that encompass roadhouse rock,
country, Western balladry and blues. Even for the brief hour-or-so
set, his range was vast as the panhandle, from the tragic "Gallo Del
Cielo," where a man bets his dreams on a fighting rooster and loses
everything, to comical outings such as "If I Could Teach My
Chihuahua to Sing."
He delicately finger-picked for Billy Joe
Shaver's lullaby for grown-ups "Live Forever" and tapped into
romantic mystery during "Behind the Bamboo Shade." He also pulled
out Terry Allen's hysterical "Give Me a Ride to Heaven Boy," in
which a hitchhiker with a halo who appears to be the son of God ends
up stealing the driver's car at gunpoint.
Ely is best experienced with a full band so
he can unleash all his boisterous power, but even alone he performed
with his usual passionate bravado.