This is the legendary "Released only on 8 track" band: The Flatlanders: The Odessa Tapes The Flatlanders, Lubbock TX c. 1971 (l-r): Steve Wesson, saw player; Butch Hancock, guitar, harmonica, vocals; Jimmie Dale Gilmore, guitar, vocals; Tony Pearson, mandolin, vocals; Joe Ely, guitar, dobro, harmonica, vocals Image: http://spiderjohnson.com/Resources/flatlanders2a.jpg
The Odessa Tapes
(New West Records)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Flatlanders’ reputation – mythos may be the better word – developed as much because of the scarcity of their material as their prescient attempt to infuse Texas roots and acoustic instrumentation into the otherwise-slick country music of the early 1970s. Their 1972 Nashville-recorded album was barely released by an uninterested record company [see 8 track, above], and they broke up not long afterward. When its material was re-released by Rounder Records in 1990, the CD was titled More a Legend Than a Band. That’s what the long-lost Flatlanders had become.
My, how that has now changed. The solo success that the three core Flatlanders – Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock – were starting to have in the 1980s, and that prompted the Rounder release, continued in the 1990s. As Americana developed with Austin as its center, they became celebrated heroes and that eventually prompted a serious, ongoing band reunion. There’s now a cornucopia of Flatlanders material available – new recordings and archival releases.
And the new The Odessa Tapes is one more – an important one. It’s a recently discovered and newly restored recording of 14 songs the Flatlanders had cut at a studio in Odessa, Texas, in January 1972. It was near – by Texas standards – their home in Lubbock. That two months before they went to Nashville, making this their earliest known recordings.
Originally made on a three-track tape recorder, and then kept in storage until The Flatlanders learned about it, the tape was taken to Capitol Mastering in Hollywood. There are still some minor technical imperfections, understandable given the source material’s age, but overall the songs sound startlingly fresh and new. In fact, the sound, singing and arrangements are livelier, more direct and more passionate than the Nashville versions of the same songs.
(Nashville version) "You've Never Seen Me Cry" "Down In My Hometown"
Unfortunately one of my favorite tracks from the 1972 album, "Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown", does not seem to be on YouTube.
ETA: The Sirius/XM channel 60 Outlaw Country
will air a one-hour special to celebrate the release of The Odessa Tapes
, Monday Sept 3 at 7 PM
. Hosted by Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock.
This post was edited on 9/3 at 1:26 pm