Jimmie Dale Glimore on The Flatlanders, the Odessa Tapes, and Friendship
Austin, Texas music royalty, The Flatlanders, featuring Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, are bringing their 40th Anniversary Tour to the historic and intimate Tulsa Little Theatre on Sunday June 10. The stories surrounding this fabled group – their initial rejection by the mainstream country music establishment, their successful solo careers, and their rare, but wonderful reunions – are many. While the fable of The Flatlanders is entertaining in and of itself, the band’s music and live performances justify their fans’ devotion. These are great musicians, and the combination of their individual talents and decades-long friendship creates a very special evening of music for those lucky enough to catch a show.
More a Legend than a Band is not only the title of The Flatlanders’ 1990 rerelease of a 20 year old recording, it is also an apt description of this Texas music supergroup whose actual body of recorded work is surpassed by the amount of rumor and myth surrounding its origin. First recording together in 71 in Odessa, Texas, the band set these tapes aside while they recorded an album in Nashville in 72 that was released to critical acclaim but not commercial success. Each of the three core musicians went on to follow individual musical paths, and the mysterious Odessa Tapes were lost to time, or so the story goes. Over the years, the men reunited for occasional band performances. They recorded songs together for the 1998 movie The Horse Whispererand followed that with a handful of Flatlanders’ albums, appearing on “Austin City Limits” and “The Late Night Show with David Letterman” along the way. The legend grew, as did their fan base.
Eventually, the Odessa Tapes resurfaced and are now being released as part of the 40th Anniversary Tour. Fans will recognize the content – familiar favorites like “Dallas”, Gilmore’s unique warble, Ely and Hancock’s harmonies, and love songs with a surprising philosophical depth. However, unlike the Nashville recording, the songs on the Odessa Tapes have the intimacy of three good friends playing music together, no pretension and no expectations of where their journey might lead them, just happy to be on the road.
“We were just playing music that we loved and just kind of going along with whatever happened,” Jimmie Dale Gilmore said about the recording. Later, “after we made the record in Nashville…we started a little bit kind of looking at the future like ‘wow, maybe this is going to be a big hit, etc.’ but that wasn’t really the way we came at all of it from the very beginning. We never really did have the kind of driving thing that lots of commercial musicians have.”
Gilmore laughed when I asked if he ever imagined he’d be playing music with these same friends forty years later. “Gosh, you know, we didn’t even think in those terms back then. Joe and Butch and I were making an interview on video (recently) and someplace in the conversation, one of the questions came around sort of like that and Joe said, ‘you have to understand that between the three of us, Butch, Jimmie and me, there was not a thimble-full of ambition.’”
When The Flatlanders play, you get the feeling it’s still more about the joy and fun of making music with friends. “We really look forward to these times when we can get together again,” Gilmore noted.
Each of the three musicians contributes something different to the group. “Well, our personalities are very different to begin with,” Gilmore said, “and it makes it kind of interesting and produces an interesting interplay between us.” He laughed and continued, “I think people enjoy the strangeness of the way we interact with each other.”
“Musically, each of us already had a pretty big repertoire of things, and there was a lot of overlap in the stuff that we liked, but each of us knew a lot of stuff that the others didn’t, and we all learned it from each other, so it caused us to have a really, really big store of stuff to draw from, including original stuff,” Gilmore reflected. “I came more directly out of a country music background, and Butch had a little more of the folk leaning, and Joe had a little more of the rock and roll leaning and those sort of blended together with the three of us to produce what came to be our music.”
Gilmore concluded, “There’s just a certain kind of chemistry between us that has to do both with the music and then also with the fact that the whole project started out of friendship. We just like each other personally, and we’re all mutual fans of each other’s music. I know I think we’re extremely fortunate and I’m very, very grateful for knowing those two guys and then especially for this long to have maintained this close friendship. I feel like we’re very, very lucky.”
For tickets and more information on The Flatlanders’ Tulsa show, visit www.tulsarootsmusic.org
-With permission from The Current