13 Songs, 1 Hour 2 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

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.

EDITORS’ NOTES

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.

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