If a poll is taken before this show, the majority of respondents will be familiar with co-stars Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt and probably even Guy Clark -- but maybe not with Joe Ely, who's always generated more respect than album sales. Ely came to the fore in 1970 with the Flatlanders, a combo that sported two other excellent tunesmiths, Butch Hancock and Jimmy Dale Gilmore. He would draw on compositions from both during a solo career that infused country with rock and vice versa; this combination, heard on terrific platters such as 1978's Honky Tonk Masquerade, attracted fans such as the Clash, whose members invited him to tour with them, but it baffled industry types, who couldn't figure out how to market his work. Ely, though, has stayed true to his vision, which explains why his new album, Happy Songs From Rattlesnake Gulch, sounds as pleasurably authentic as ever. While he's arguably the most obscure member of this traveling quartet, Paramount attendees -- especially those who've never heard of him -- are mighty fortunate he's on the bill.
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