Notes from Evan Smith
"The Flatlanders -- Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock -- are each well-known musicians and songwriters in their own right. But it all began for these three West Texas boys with The Flatlanders.
Jimmie Dale Gilmore formed a couple of groups in the late 1960s in Lubbock, Texas, followed in short order by the Hub City Movers. But, according to John T. Davis, creative lightning didn't strike until 1971, when he united with Hancock and Ely in The Flatlanders (the original group also included musical saw player Steve Wesson, string bassist Sylvester Rice and mandolinist Tony Pearson).
Getting started wasn't easy. According to Davis, The Flatlanders -- highly untutored in the ways of the music business -- were all but laughed out of Nashville on the one trip they made to Music City in 1971.
Eventually, the band recorded for Shelby Singleton's Plantation Records, which released a few copies of a Flatlanders album on eight-track tape in 1972.
In 1980, the tracks re-surfaced on England's Charly label as One Road More. Since 1990, the album has been available on Rounder Records as More A Legend Than A Band.
After striking out in Nashville, the band moved down to the Texas capital of Austin, which in 1973 was enjoying a musical enaissance. The Flatlanders settled in at the Armadillo World Headquarters beer garden and played the Kerrville Folk Festival.
But, according to Davis, they gradually were pulled apart by the Austin scene and their own personal musical tastes. Each set out on their own to try their luck as solo artists.
Gilmore went on a series of musical and spiritual quests, which culminated in a trio of highly regarded albums, After Awhile, Spinning Around the Sun, and Braver, Newer World.
Butch Hancock pursued his own idiosyncratic path, churning out albums on his own independent label (Emmylou Harris covered his lovely "If You Were A Bluebird"), and winding up as a river-guide/balladeer down in the Big Bend desert country of far West Texas.
Ely has performed with everyone from The Clash to Bruce Springsteen to The Rolling Stones.
Then in 1997 they decided to collaborate again on the soundtrack of Robert Redford's 1997 movie, The Horse Whisperer. The song, "South Wind of Summer," marked the Flatlanders' first official collaboration in nearly a quarter-century.
In May of 1998, they surfaced on David Letterman's television show. In 1999, the trio appeared before a huge audience on the popular New York Summer Stage series in Central Park.
And in 2002 they decided to record together again, with their New West Records debut, Now Again." - Evan Smith, Texas Monthly Talks, Broadcast 7.31.03