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It's Band Time For The Flatlanders AGain

Of the Oakland Press

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They once called themselves “More a Legend Than a Band,” and nearly 40 years on, it’s clear The Flatlanders don’t operate like any normal group.

“Nothing’s really planned out in advance or anything,” says Joe Ely, who first joined forces with fellow Texas singer-songwriters Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock in the early ’70s, though the trio didn’t start regularly releasing albums and touring until 30 years later.

“We’re not a full-time band. We’re not full-time writers together. We don’t have to do it or have reasons or anything. We just kind of do it to see what happens. I love to get together with Butch and Jimmy and just see what the song is going to turn out to be, ’cause it always surprises us.”

The impetus for “Hills and Valleys,” The Flatlanders’ fourth album and first in five years, was in the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina, which led to a song called “After the Storm.” It took the trio a couple more years to get an album of songs together, but Ely says that’s simply a process the group has learned to follow.

“Butch put it real well one time; he said we put ourselves in the situation where we have to let the song tell us what to do instead of us telling the song what to do,” says Ely, 62. “That really sums it up. We try to keep it open-ended about where the song is gonna head. When we hear the right thing, we look at each other and says, ‘That’s obvious. That’s the way it’s got to be.’

“And sometimes that can take years, you know? Because we all have our own careers and make our own records, we can afford with this group to wait until we hear the right thing. We don’t have to hurry something out before it’s the very best it can be, which is a great luxury. We don’t take that for granted.”

The Flatlanders perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday (April 22) at the Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $32.50. Call (734) 761-1451 or visit www.theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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