CD Review: The Flatlanders Hills and Valleys (New West Records)

f you’ve been listening, you know that these hard times we’re all suffering through, to various degrees, have inspired some great songs. One of the best is The Flatlanders’ “Homeland Refugee,” the lead track on their new album. The song turns the notion of Western migration on its head
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If you’ve been listening, you know that these hard times we’re all suffering through, to various degrees, have inspired some great songs. One of the best is The Flatlanders’ “Homeland Refugee,” the lead track on their new album. The song turns the notion of Western migration on its head, revealing dreamy California as a desert of disappointment and hardship: “There’s some refugees from Mexico/Behind an abandoned Texaco/We nod and smile, it’s clear we’re all the same/For everything this world is worth/We’re all just migrants on this earth/Returning to the dust from where we came.” The narrator in this song is heading back toward the Dust Bowl, and the message is more than clear: We’ve run out of places to run. Not all the songs on Hills and Valleys are as bleak—as the title suggests—but they’re all just as well-crafted and well-played, with that wonderful Western Tex/Mex flavor that members Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock and Joe Ely use, whether they’re performing apart or together. As on other Flatlanders’ albums, there’s a nice diversity in the way the trio of headliners take turns on lead vocals from song to song and within songs, like their upbeat interpretation of Woody Guthrie’s “Sowing on the Mountain.”

Must Play: “Sowing on the Mountain”

Producers: Lloyd Maines. Recording/mixing/mastering engineer: Pat Manske (additional engineering by Joe Ely, Lloyd Maines and Mike Morgan). Studios: The Zone (Dripping Springs, TX); Spur Studio and Bubba’s Place (both in Austin, TX).