When the Flatlanders' first (and for many years only) album finally received a proper release in America in 1990, 18 years after it was recorded, it was called More a Legend Than a Band. Three decades after those first sessions, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock, three of Texas' most celebrated singer/songwriters, finally made it back into the studio to cut a second album, and on Now Again the Flatlanders finally sound like an honest-to-goodness band -- -- or at least full collaborators -- in a way they never did before. While Gilmore tended to dominate the songs on More a Legend Than a Band (not surprising, since the band was often billed as Jimmie Dale Gilmore & the Flatlanders), Now Again sounds a lot more democratic; the glorious waver of Gilmore's tenor is still the band's strongest vocal presence, but the bluesy bite of Joe Ely's voice and Butch Hancock's homey storyteller's twang get a much bigger share of the spotlight, and their harmonies have both the good humor and the Friday-night enthusiasm of a barroom singalong (though with a good bit more precision). With two exceptions, all the songs for Now Again were written collectively by the trio, and the material honors the three distinctive but complimentary personalities on board, from the easygoing roadhouse stomp of "Wavin' My Heart Goodbye" and the down-home metaphysics of "Down in the Light of the Melon Moon" to the bluesy lope of "Right Where I Belong" and the joyously goofy neo-rockabilly of "Pay the Alligator." Rather than sounding like a reunion of some aging cosmic cowboys, Now Again is the work of three singular talents who are also good friends, and the give and take of their musical personalities speaks both for their respect for one another and the understanding of their abilities; in short, this time out the Flatlanders really are a band, and Now Again is an album from them that's strong enough to honor their long-simmering legend.
Now Again Review
by Mark Deming