Joe Ely/Honky Tonk Masquerade

Joe Ely

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Joe Ely/Honky Tonk Masquerade Review

by Bob Gottlieb

This two-for-one disc, remastered from the original tapes, combines two of Joe Ely's very best recorded works; in fact, Honky Tonk Masquerade was picked by Rolling Stone as one of the best albums of the 1970s. The energy and intensity delivered here remain true to his stage shows, and those who have seen him know that he takes nothing back to the dressing room with him, as it is all left on the stage. The band has that tightness that only comes from years of constant touring and playing to all kinds of crowds. This is roots music before it was a genre, heightened by the energy of the musicians' believing in the music they are playing. The songwriting is exemplary, as the songs are primarily by Ely, Butch Hancock, and Jimmie Dale. The latter two are known mainly as songwriters, and have begun to get some recognition for their own discs. Early versions of the songs hold up to later versions, which is the sign of a strong song. There is a beautiful rendition of "If You Were a Bluebird," which inspired the title of an Emmylou Harris LP and became a big hit for her. This collection of rocking roots country music from one of the hardest workers around gives ample indication of the work to come. The energy heard here comes from a combination of dedication to craft, good songwriting, and the desire to give it all each and every time. At the same time, this disc contains some of the best work this performer has done. Three cheers to BGO for combining these two previously hard to find discs.

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