Colin Gilmore reckons it’s a long way from Lubbock to Austin (as a fourteen-year-old); it’s also quite a long way from LA to Lubbock. But nowhere is further than the walk I took from Saturday night’s Tool extravaganza at Spark Arena, across the way to The Tuning Fork to catch some good old Texas country on Sunday night. Musically speaking.
Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock are two-thirds of the Flatlanders, more of a legend than a band, as Rounder Records announced in a 1990 reissue of their music. Joe Ely is the third man singer-songwriter, and each of these guys has enjoyed more success as a solo artist than in the original incarnation back in 1972. Never mind. Stuff that legends are made of.
And here we are, Jimmie Dale and Butch on stage together in New Zealand in our own Tuning Fork backyard for only the second time. They can’t remember the first time, only that they toured New Zealand sometime around 1990, possibly touring that Rounder record. Supported by son Colin Gilmore and his band, the stage is crowded with what could be described as Flatlanders revisited. Except now they live in the hill country and the mountains, by the rivers, up north and down south Mexico way, and take their holidays in New Zealand thanks to some extraordinary sponsorship from a local fan. We are blessed.
If you’ve ever heard Willie Nelson sing like a bird, you’ve possibly been listening to Lukas, but it’s more likely to be Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Yes, that’s his voice, the pure tenor of it, which someone astute once said would make Hank Williams cry. And if you listen to his son Colin, you also understand the power of gene, both biological and geographical, because Lubbock is where Buddy came from and where the land is flat and why Colin can sound like both Buddy and his Dad.
Colin Gilmore and his band kick off the show, with the Bennett brothers from Chicago, Tim on drums and Jason on guitar, playing that subtle country lead which Jason Wilber does so well for Prine.
Feel Like Falling from 2013’s The Wild and Hollow opens the set, followed by Helpless Happiness (but I’m not sure of that) and then I am sure that up next is Buddy Holly and Heartbeat. Patron saint of Lubbock.
Colin moved from Lubbock aged 14 to Austin. A culture shock, a bigger smoke. And psychedelics. Mind altering drugs have no genre, it would seem. His arms are turning into Black Vines, and his blood to white wine. Could be a good trip after all. And now for classic country, Blue Shadows, a song his Dad wrote with Hal Ketchum. Bottle slide on guitar. Ok, up tempo, two step, rockabilly with a touch of swing, and yes, folks can dance, to The You That I Knew.
Special moment. Tammy Lynne Gilmore gets up to join her husband for Townes Van Zandt’s Loretta. Why do Townes’ songs sound so much better by others? Harmonies hide the macho lyrics: “spends my money like waterfalls / loves me like I want her to” Naughty Townes.
Extra special moments: Bonnie Whitmore is on bass, but she also records in her own write, and now she’s up front and rocking, with She’s a Hurricane and F--k with Sad Girls. Wow, we’ve had acid, we’ve had chauvinism, and now we have no-one wanting to fuck a sad girl (is that true?). What is true is if (daughter) Nicole reads this then the swear jar will be jingling. But it’s country and it’s really the name of the song….. jingle, jingle….
No, not the swear jar, it’s the sound of gears crashing as we change down to a song sang by actress Sophie Reid in a small movie called Barracuda.
“another songwriter in the belly of the whale / every thought from his lips got lost in the mail" closes out the set and the band cut loose in classic country rock style. Magic.
1. Feel Like Falling
2. Helpless Happiness (??)
4. Black Vines
5. Blue Shadows
6. The You That I Knew
8. She’s a Hurricane
9. F—k with Sad Girls
10. Pretty Polly
11. Circles in the Yard
Almost unnoticed, the stage fills up to the brim, and Colin Gilmore and band are back on stage, but this time there’s Butch and Jimmie Dale in trademark hats, and one of them has long hair.
Jimmie announces yet another song of his that someone else wrote, and Butch is off into an early Flatlanders tune, One Road More. “Ain’t got a lick of sense / I got a crazy mind / Cause I don’t want to leave / and don’t want to stay behind” The immediate thought is, wow, Butch is in fine voice. I don’t remember his singing as much as his song writing in the 80s and 90s, but tonight he is in top form. And of course, I have to get that thought out quickly before Jimmie opens his mouth.
And he does, on the first single, which went nowhere, but immortalised a city and not a TV show. Dallas is indeed a woman, and the song was written by Jimmie, despite him telling us it was Joe. At least that’s what the credits say.
But this is magic, Texas country at it’s purest and best, as Butch takes us on an Oxblood odyssey, a Dylan-esque journey where “the car won’t start / if it did there’s be nowhere to go”. Except to a hoedown about happenings on the farm with an ox, a chainsaw, and a lot of rain.
We are further transported by Jimmie taking us downtown, Tonight. What a pure voice. He does remind you of Willie, but I think it ought to be the other way around.
Butch and Colin on the Hancock song Leo and Leona take us all over Texas, and Colin leads on Festival Song, about the time when 3 million people ( well, close to) listened to Dolly Parton at San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and the world was at peace. Jimmie and Butch tell the story about the Santa Fe Thief, and Jimmie elaborates on why his train of thought does and does not make all the stops. Instead it gives him license to digress, as it does Butch, who leads while all three share vocals on one of his best ever digressions, If You Were A Bluebird. Subjunctively correct!
“You’re just the wave / not the water” , no need for a wall, down at the border, as Butch goes a little political with Borderless Love, playing on my car cd on the way to the gig.
Another Colorado precedes a Fine song from Bonnie and they talk about Terlingua, down by the border, where Butch has a home and maybe Jimmie too, and maybe Bonnie? That would leave 55 other people in that town.
From there, though, You Could Have Walked Around the World, not unlike my musical journey from last night.
It’s getting close to curfew, but time for a Flatlanders song written by Colin, and my notes confuse me between West Texas Waltz and The Way We Are. Maybe we get both? No, pretty sure we don’t get that waltz. That’s Joe’s waltz. And Butch’s. Maybe it belongs to everybody.
What we do get is Thank God for the Road, My Mind has a Mind of its Own and a final surprise, a cover of The Youngbloods’ anthem, Get Together.
The artists are grateful we have come out on a Sunday night. But we would have come out at 3am Sunday morning to catch these guys, well……maybe….. but Sunday night in Auckland is no hardship to see legends in our backyard.
Ryan does a great job on sound. Michael and Felicity have done a great job on hospitality. Thank you so much.
1. One Road More
4. Tonight (think I’m going downtown)
5. Leo and Leona
6. Festival Song
7. Santa Fe Thief
8. If You Were a Bluebird
10. Borderless Love
11. Another Colorado
13. (You Could Have) Walked Around the World
14. The Way We are
15. Thank God for the Road
16. My Mind’s got a Mind of its Own
17. Get Together
Radio 13 thanks and credits Chony Musson for all the images featured in this article.