Joe Ely Live At Antone's

Probably the most dynamic live performer of the Texas songwriter crowd, it's not surprising that this isn't Ely's first live outing on record. While he may be a little older, Live At Antone's still contains plenty of Ely's trademark fire, thanks in part to his usual crack band, which includes Lloyd Maines on pedal steel, Joel Guzman on accordion and flamenco guitarist Teye. It doesn't hurt that he's playing in front of a die-hard audience either, even though the ambience is not often captured successfully. The album is therefore better as an overall sampler of Ely's career, rather than a live document since all of his trademarks are here, from "Me And Billy The Kid" to "The Road Goes On Forever." There also can never be too many versions of Utah Phillips' "Rock Salt And Nails," one of the most underrated pieces in the contemporary American songbook. The only drawback for the uninitiated is that Ely does have a tendency to be melodramatic, but I still believe it's best to hear him as akin to Bruce Springsteen, if he grew up on the banks of the Rio Grande rather than the Jersey shore. Ignore the bad cover art and pick this up if you're at all curious about Ely's work. (Rounder)