There are plenty of reasons for Americana and country fans to be excited when The Flatlanders make an appearance at the Performing Arts Center's Williams Theater on Thursday, Nov. 18. The critically revered act is a virtual super-group in the genre, comprised of Joe Ely, Butch Walker and Jimmy Dale Gilmore, with each member drawing praise and respect from their respective solo careers well before coming together as a unit.
The group's latest CD, Hills and Valleys, was released last year and has continued to build in popularity and critical praise as the trio extended its touring in support of the disc. It's one of the standout cuts on the disc, "The Way We Are," which provides an intriguing tie between headliners and the show's opening act, Colin Gilmore. The song was originally recorded on his solo debut, The Day The World Stopped and Spun The Other Way, back in 2004. The Flatlanders gave it a little bit of a twist, however, and gave the song a new life.
"I wrote that song for my wife, Tammy, and it was on my first album, six years ago," Gilmore shared. "When Dad called (Yes, Jimmy Dale Gilmore is his father) and asked if they could record it for the new Flatlanders CD, I said 'I don't know, let me think about it for a minute. (Short pause...) I've thought about it: yes!'"
In comparing the two, Gilmore said, "I really like what they did with it. They played it a little faster, with a more driving beat and changed the key. Actually, I liked it so much, that I've now created my own version that I play live that's a little bit of both."
Whether we'll get to hear both versions when the two share the stage this week is yet to be seen, but it will surely be an incredible night of music regardless. Not only will Tulsa get to see a trio of stars perform together, but the evening will also see two generations of Gilmores share the same stage, highlighting their similarities -- and their differences.
Although they share a bloodline and an indelible musical tie, the two Gilmores also diverge just as much musically. Both have a distinct country and Texas music influence, but Colin's influences are definitely different than his father's. Having grown up with his Mother as his parents were divorced, Gilmore said, "I kind of watched Dad get popular from far away," and explained that while he feels his father's influences are more Austin-based, "I have more of a Lubbock influence."
Colin cites people like Jesse Taylor, brother-in-law Dan Yates and even his mother, singer Debbie Fields, as the major musical influences on him as he grew up. Mostly, however, he thinks of himself "more as a Lubbock musician."
When asking Gilmore to explain the difference between Austin and Lubbock's music scenes and sounds, he said, "I feel like there was one big group in Lubbock that just kind of hit the ground running in music and I want to continue that and keep it alive, both in my playing and my writing."
Of course, no one is going to argue with Austin's status as a musical oasis of sorts, accommodating a diversity of styles and influences. Even Gilmore admits "Austin is such a Mecca for musicians..." Nevertheless, the Lubbock music scene has a distinctly different feel.
Gilmore said Lubbock's music bears the signatures of such legends as Buddy Holly, Sonny Curtis and Jimmy Gilmer, who wrote and recorded "Sugar Shack."
Mostly, however, Gilmore said, "Lubbock is very influenced by Buddy's sense of energy and melody. There's just a sense of toughness, a roughness to the music. There's a rockabilly element as well. It's hard to put a finger on: there are all different styles, but there's something about it in Lubbock."
Ultimately, Gilmore concluded: "It feels like the music from there (Lubbock) is filling a wide open space. It's more literal than figurative, because there's such a big sky and nothing but flat ground: there's a low horizon in every direction."
"To some people it's loneliness, but to others, it's openness. It's like a blank canvas on which you can paint. I just can't put a finger on why it feels that way."
Not that he needs to pinpoint it. When listening to Gilmore's latest disc, Goodnight Lane, you can hear the distinct twang that screams Texas, but his comments may best explain the space and attitude that pervades his songs, that I couldn't otherwise put into words. On tracks such as "Laughing Hard or Crying," the songs have a distinct, early rockabilly influence and rawness without feeling retro or dated.
Although Gilmore's disc doesn't fit many contemporary formats, he's already started picking up airplay in California, and the disc has a distinct Texas twang that could let it slide in amongst the alt-country acts that dominate the Texas radio charts. More than country or Texas blues, however, Gilmore's disc retains a definitive singer/songwriter vibe, whether channeling the spirit of Buddy Holly, or taking a poignant and reflective tone as on "Raindrops in July," which Gilmore saud he wrote for his Uncle Allen, who died on the same day as Johnny Cash. Most of the disc, much like opening track "Circles in the Yard," bounces along with a jangle, upbeat tone and the openness that Gilmore so vividly described.
Thursday evening's show at the Williams Theater with The Flatlanders will undoubtedly be enlightening as the audience gets to see the differences and similarities between Colin and his father, Jimmy Dale Gilmore. Perhaps more importantly, however, it will provide a strong introduction for one of the young artists that we should be returning to Tulsa as he continues to tour in support of a solid new album that deserves the attention that is only beginning to be drawn to it.
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