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Live Cactus!

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iTunes Review

Texas singer/songwriter Joe Ely has been documenting his shows by releasing a live album every ten years or so. His latest, 2008’s Live Cactus!, is his most satisfying in-concert offering since 1981’s rambunctious Live Shots. Here he takes a stripped-down approach, using only accordionist Joel Guzman to accompany his voice and acoustic guitar. Performing before an appreciative crowd at Austin’s Cactus Cafe, Ely renews his credentials as a master of high ‘n’ lonesome-style country with poignant renditions of “Because of the Wind” and “I’m a Thousand Miles from Home.” “Where Is My Love?” and “Up On the Ridge” evoke a melancholy Tex-Mex atmosphere, while a flash of populist anger lights up “Ranches and Rivers.” While Ely doesn’t emphasize his rock side, he does kick up some dust with “Slow You Down” and “All Just to Get to You.” Honors for the most affecting song go to “Letter to Laredo,” a delicately wrought romantic lament sung with a soft-lit intensity, and up-and-coming alt-country artist Ryan Bingham adds his scorched vocal tones to “White Freightliner Blues.” Live Cactus! provides a snapshot of a Lone Star legend in fine form.

Customer Reviews

Something to remember

I had the privelige of catching these two in Atlanta on their tour, and it was definitely one of my all-time best concert experiences. I've been a fan of Joe for quite awhile, but Joel Guzman is a true artist. I am not by nature a big fan of Tex-Mex music, but the themes, intensity, and virtuosity here are universal. My wife had never seen either, and was floored. A very special album.

Great stuff

I saw Joe Ely and Joel Guzman at a small club in Los Angeles last year. I knew most of the tunes from Joe Ely's previous albums but they held up wonderfully despite the sparse instrumentation...maybe even better due to that spare sound. And Joel Guzman's playing was sublime. This album is just about as good as my memories of that show. The only thing missing is a version of "She Never Spoke Spanish To Me"

LIve Cactus!

The great Joe Ely's finest work! Enough said.


Born: February 9, 1947 in Amarillo, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Country-rock singer/songwriter/guitarist Joe Ely was born Earle R. Ely on February 9, 1947, in Amarillo, Texas. His family had worked for the Rock Island Line railroad dating back to the start of the century. When he was 12, the family moved to Lubbock, Texas, where his father ran a used clothing store. Inspired by seeing Jerry Lee Lewis perform when he was a child, Ely aspired to a musical career, and he briefly took violin and steel guitar lessons before turning to the guitar. His father died when...
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