Austin360 On the Record: Joe Ely, Kent Finlay, more
Austin360 On the Record is a weekly roundup of new, recent and upcoming releases by local and Austin-associated recording artists.
OUT THIS WEEK
Joe Ely, “Love in the Midst of Mayhem” (Smith Entertainment). “The album popped up quickly, but at the same time, it was a long time coming,” the legendary Austin-via-Lubbock troubadour said in press materials accompanying this surprise 10-song release, which came out of nowhere this week but features songs that trace back as far as 47 years. With an extended stretch at home during the pandemic, Ely says he “went digging in places I hadn’t visited in a long time” and came up with an album-length collection of tracks. That a record made largely of misfits from past projects would be strong enough to make “Love in the Midst of Mayhem” one of Ely’s best records speaks to the high standards he’s had throughout his career. But it is that good. “Garden of Manhattan,” one of four songs written since Ely’s last album (2015’s “Panhandle Rambler”), is an instant classic, up there with “Because of the Wind” and “Me & Billy the Kid” among the best songs he’s ever written, and it hits harder amid the backdrop of New York’s heavy toll from COVID-19. “Soon All Your Sorrows Be Gone” dates to 1974, but its timeless lyrics — set to a spare arrangement of acoustic guitar and Joel Guzman’s accordion — make it a perfect opening track for an album released in the midst of, well, mayhem. The reassuring tone and spirit of “You Can Rely on Me,” written last year and the newest in this batch, similarly feels like a balm for these times. Ely wrote all these songs on his own except “All You Are Love,” a collaboration with his lifelong Flatlanders pals Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock. They don’t appear here, but the supporting cast (in addition to Guzman, who plays both accordion and keyboard) includes an A-list of current and former Austin musicians, including guitarists Mitch Watkins, Rob Gjersoe and Bradley Kopp; bassists Roscoe Beck, Glenn Fukunaga, Gary Herman and Jimmy Pettit; drummers Davis McLarty, Pat Manske and Steve Meador; and keyboardists Reese Wynans and the late Bill Ginn. Here’s “Garden of Manhattan”:
Kent Finlay, “I’ve Written Some Life” (Eight 30/Aimless). Well-known as the longtime owner of San Marcos venue Cheatham Street Warehouse, Finlay died in 2015 at age 77 but left behind this album recorded in 1995 with a cast that included Todd Snider, who was one of many rising songwriter Finlay mentored over the decades. This reissue is a dual project of Snider’s Aimless label and Eight 30 Records, run by Kent’s daughter Jenni Finlay. In the liner notes, Snider comments: “Kent never said that he was in the league of the people he taught, but we knew he was. I knew all his songs by heart, each story and statement and every chord and chorus.” Here’s the title track:
APRIL 24: Whitney Rose, “We Still Go to Rodeos.”
APRIL 26: Leeann Atherton, “Fallen Angel,” release livestream April 26 at facebook.com/leeannsbarndance
MAY 1: David Grissom, “Trio Live 2020.”
MAY 1: James Hyland, “Western.”
MAY 8: Jeff Hortillosa, “The Horticulture Vol. 1.”
MAY 15: Ruthie Foster Big Band, “Live at the Paramount” (Blue Corn).
MAY 22: Reckless Kelly, “American Girls” and “American Jackpot” (Thirty Tigers).
MAY 29: Sweet Spirit, “Trinidad” (Merge).
JUNE 19: Monte Warden & the Dangerous Few, self-titled.
JULY 3: Willie Nelson, “First Rose of Spring” (Legacy), moved from April 24.
JULY 10: Nobody’s Girl, self-titled.