[Today: A group that barely was, and an album that almost wasn’t…]
Rarely has an album title so succinctly summed up the fortunes of the group that made it. The tracks that make up More A Legend Than A Band were cut in 1972, and assembled and prepared for LP release. But when lead single ‘Dallas’ tanked, those plans were scrapped. The album was only hastily released on 8-track, and remained in that format alone until 1990, when Rhino finally gave these songs the proper release they had always deserved. In spite of the discouraging misfire, this was the starting point for three members of the band who went on to noteworthy solo careers – Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
Gilmore has the kind of voice that went out of style during the Great Depression, and sounds like it should be coming out of the horn of an ancient victrola or a dusty honky-tonk jukebox. His vocal stylings are informed by Jimmie Rodgers‘ famous yodel, and perfectly backed by old-time instrumentation – particularly Steve Wesson’s warped musical saw. “Dallas is a rich man with a death wish in his eye” sings Gilmore, while the band does the old-timey thing to perfection. The album is studded with that kind of hard-earned, irrefutable West Texas philosophy. There’s nothing to do but nod along and sip your drink.
The Flatlanders played very traditional country music at a point in time – the early-70’s – when Nashville was eagerly watering down Country with the latest musical trends in a misguided courtship of mainstream radio. The group’s refusal to make a standard, paint-by-numbers Nashville album was their undoing, but it also helped establish the legend mentioned in the album title. Decades before alt-country (a genre that would take many cues from this album) and O’ Brother Where Art Thou, The Flatlanders realized that one sure way for country music to move forward was for it to look way back.
Listen: One Road More