We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Throughout a hit-and-miss recording career that began in the late ’70s, West Texas troubadour Joe Ely has presented his native flatlands as a personal heaven and hell, and in doing so he has become to the South Plains what Bruce Springsteen was to the Jersey shore. So it’s fitting that Springsteen adds his gritty backing vocals on the opening and closing cuts of Ely’s latest release, the energetic Letter to Laredo. Bruce isn’t the only luminary to sign on; Mavericks singer Raul Malo performs on “Gallo del Cielo.” But it isn’t the guest stars that give the album the Lone Star ambience Ely’s best material favors. Flamenco guitarist Teye, along with Ely’s longtime collaborators (and fellow Lubbockites) Davis McLarty on drums, Lloyd Maines on pedal steel, accordionist Ponty Bone, and backing vocalist Jimmie Dale Gilmore, give Ely all the empathy he needs to deliver a set as Texan as a fajita stand.