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Down On the Drag

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Album Review

Two records into his career, Joe Ely was riding a creative high with his eclectic Southwest mix, that stretches from Amarillo, Lubbock and Austin, east to Louisiana. Produced by folk-rock maven, Bob Johnston (Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel) and released in 1979, Down on the Drag came with high expectations. However, with all of the elements seemingly in place, including his crack band and a handful of contributions from pal Butch Hancock, Down on the Drag never quite achieves the lofty standard set by its predecessors. Hancock, who has been Ely's favorite source for outside tunes, picks up right where the classic Honky Tonk Masquerade left off, delivering the album's best songs, but only the loser's lament, "Crazy Lemon," truly stands out among Ely's originals. Furthermore, while Ely, who possesses a commanding if somewhat limited voice, may be able to redeem the otherwise unspectacular swamp rock of "Crawdad Train," yet he fails to do the same for his ballads, which don't really stay with you like his earlier "Because of the Wind" or "Honky Tonk Masquerade." And while Ely and his band are as good as ever, they suffer at times from Johnston's production, which lacks the same spark and crispness that Chip Young brought to the previous two recordings. Still, while Down on the Drag may suffer in comparison to Joe Ely's extraordinary past work, it holds up well enough alongside the rest of his catalog.

Customer Reviews

on-the-nose i-tunes review

It's summed up very accurately above. But someone should mention which ones the Butch Hancock tunes are. My memory is spotty, but I think there are three here: "Fools Fall in Love" is definitely his and the best track on this cd and manages to rise above the tinny production. The other Hancock songs, I think and well worth a listen: "Standing at the Big Hotel" and "In Another World." Somebody please correct me if I'm wrong. Shame that such a good band and singer get produced like this.

Here it comes.

You can see the highlights of a song writing master coming down the highway. Don't miss Down on the Drag!


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...
Full Bio