This is The Flatlanders' 4th studio album in 30 some odd years, so they certainly know how to keep us in suspense and wanting more, though the three members of this legendary group have very successful solo. Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, and Butch Hancock don't need to build any suspense because their writing is good and when they come together it is superb and a far piece above good. Eight of the thirteen songs are written by the three of them, two by Joe Ely, one each by Colin Gilmore and Butch Hancock, and the last is an adaptation, by Jimmie Dale Gilmore, of a Woody Guthrie song. *Hills and Valleys contains some of the best collaborative songwriting this group has produced and there is a kind of relaxed feel to this effort that seems to indicate that they have come to grips with themselves and their status as more legends than real performers. Some of this might have to do with having the renowned Lloyd Maines in the producer's chair and appearing on the disc playing acoustic guitar, Dobro, lap steel and more, who can say, but it is a tangible asset.
The disc opens with Homeland Refugee which is very much a Woody Guthrie-esque tune about the state of our country at this juncture of time, and might be one of the most powerful songs they have written, and Joe Ely sings it. The disc doesn't fall down at all from there; they go right from that to Border Love, which plays with the borders of Love and Borders of property, very enhanced by the accordion of Joel Guzman. Each of the songs has something to say, and they all take turns doing the lead vocals.
A cadre of seasoned musicians has been assembled for their musical support on this disc; people such as Joel Guzman on accordion, Glenn Fukunaga on bass, Rob Gjersoe on guitars, the afore mentioned Lloyd Maines on his plethora of instruments and Bukka Allen on keyboards and accordion are just a few of them to give you a feel for the level of expertise on this disc. No matter it all seems to come back to the exceptionally fertile songwriting on this disc that takes it to the next level. A strong contender so early in the year for album of the year because of the timely and touching songwriting displayed here on this truly joint effort that appears so effortless.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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