At a time when the outlaw movement was sweeping country music in the hands of Waylon Jennings (of RCA Victor Records) and Willie Nelson (of Columbia Records), it was not surprising that MCA Records, in search of its own representative of the style, would have taken a tip from Jerry Jeff Walker of its roster and signed Texas journeyman Joe Ely to a deal. The 29-year-old Ely had knocked around for a while, notably as a member of Jimmie Dale Gilmore & the Flatlanders, whose sole album had a brief release on Plantation Records in 1972. Clearly, Ely had kept in touch with that band's other principals, since Jimmie Dale Gilmore's excellent composition "Treat Me Like a Saturday Night" is included here, along with four songs written by another Flatlanders alumnus, Butch Hancock. In fact, those tunes -- "She Never Spoke Spanish to Me," "Suckin' a Big Bottle of Gin," "Tennessee's Not the State I'm In," and "If You Were a Bluebird" -- are all strong ballads, the best material on this record, and suggest that maybe MCA should have signed Hancock instead. Ely, who provides the other five songs, is no slouch himself, however. "I Had My Hopes Up High," which leads things off, is his account of his peripatetic life of hoboing and hitchhiking around, while "Mardi Gras Waltz" is a good Cajun number and "All My Love" (the first single) is in the Bob Wills Western swing vein. With his accent and light tenor, Ely came off as an experienced Texas honky tonk performer on his debut album. Maybe he wasn't MCA's answer to Willie and Waylon, exactly, but Joe Ely showed promise for a powerful, individual repertoire in the future, especially if he continued borrowing songs from his pal Hancock.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann