The only good that I see from this whole Pandemic is the music that has came out because of it. Artists seem to have settled in for a time and are just writing and recording. I have watched more online performance and streamed more new songs via Pandora or Spotify than I ever have in my entire life. I have absolutely enjoyed following all of my favorite singer songwriters on the many social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Joe Ely is one of these artists. He released a new album this past July.
Love In the Midst of Mayhem, the title seems to fit in these uncertain times. The album features 10 tracks. All were written or co-written by Ely. The songs on the album seem to fit with the times we are living in. In truth, most of the songs on the album are not new songs. Joe Ely started writing them years and in one case even decades ago. The songs were just never recorded or released until now.
Ely wrote Soon All Your Sorrows Be Gone in 1974. He originally started work for His song Garden ofManhattan after 9/11.
Joe Ely told the Dallas Morning News:
I tried to make an album that would soften the blow of what everybody’s going through, and remind people that we’ve got to get back to zero so we can start fresh. My wife calls them healing songs
Healing Songs They are. I have always appreciated Joe Ely and his music. This album is no different. It has a flow to it of calm and relaxed. Ely makes Music that soothes the soul.
Joe Ely was born in Amarillo and moved to Lubbock when he was 12. He has been active in the Texas music scene since 1970. Ely was named Texas State Musician for the year 2016.
Throughout his career, Ely has recorded a consistent line of albums, most on the MCA label. He has pushed out a live album roughly each decade.
In 1970 Ely formed the band the Flatlanders with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock. All three artists soon went on to follow solo careers but have reconnected throughout the years to tour and make music together.
Joe Ely is known for his genre crossing success. He has crossed the Country, Americana, Rock and Tex- Mex boundaries. Ely has performed with artists like Bruce Springsteen, Uncle Tupelo, Los Super Seven, and James McMurtry. As well as Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, and Guy Clark. Joe Ely even once toured Mexico with the punk rock band Clash.
Today at Noon Central time I was able to tune into Tom Russell’s First International Folk Festival. This Facebook Live event was just one of many live shows that Tom has done in this season of social distancing.
Tom opened the show with a version of “Railroad Bill” and went into a medley of hits by other remarkable folk musicians. He covered Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty” along with Guy’s “L.A. Freeway“
I felt that the show was successful with 2.6K viewers watching with me and Facebook comments streaming into my feed from around the globe. Tom has been a light in the darkness by finding new and innovative ways of promoting his music and that of others in this uncertain time.
Tom wore his signature bandanna around his neck a purple one on this day.. one commenter weighed in that Tom Russell was wearing masks before wearing a mask was cool. The masks have been the new normal as this global pandemic continues to spread worldwide. I’m so over it already and I hope these wonderful musicians who spend their lives out on the road making music for us to enjoy will have the freedom to do so in the very near future.
Tom Russell’s wife Nadine helped him in making this project possible she filmed him from the beautiful back drops of Switzerland as he told his tales and sung his music for the world to enjoy.Tom told of his song “U.S. Steel” a one armed gas station attendant in Pittsburgh inspired him to write this song.. An end of an era, the man Tom met at the gas station that day had lost his arm in the mill and later would lose his job when the local steel mill had shut down.
The first guest on the show was David Massengill who sang about growing up in an orphanage. The stunning video shot in the beautiful green forest of the United Kingdom.
Tom introduced Australian songwriter Eric Vogel. His rosy cheeks and bubbly smile along with Vogel’s Soprano voice belting out lyrics “Sing while he has a voice/ sing while he has a choice- sing/ sing/ sing” The Vogel song made me smile It seemed I was floating out of my chair in time with the harmonies.
Austin musician, Eliza Gilkyson , daughter of the songwriter and folk singer Terry Gilkyson joined the festival and sang “Take off your old Coat” . This song is a tale of life traveled on a rough path but being able to still expect the gifts and blessings we will receive in the after life.
Three Hat Trio did a great performance from the Zion National Park in the picturesque state of Utah.
“Their musical style is a taste of Africa with a Cowboy Banjo”, Tom described.
I felt that it was the kind of bluegrass string music that would make the late great Bill Monroe want to tap his feet in time.
Songwriter Bernie Taupin , who has spent much of his career writing for Elton John, spoke of his own musical inspirations. Bernie said that he still listened to The Marty Robbins Album “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs” at least once every other week.
“El Paso, had me at Hello” , Taupin explained “ it was the song that made me want to write songs”.
Taupin said that the song “El Paso” took him from the cold in the North of England to the hot deserts of Texas.
Tom reflected from his personal studio in Switzerland. I love Tom’s space. The studio walls are adorned by Tom’s art work. He paints the most wonderful abstracts of musicians like Townes Van Zandt. His paintings of Indian Teepees, and one of a lone white rooster caught my eye today.
Rosie Flores joined in live from her own space in Austin, Texas. She was wearing a Dylan T-shirt and red diamond studded glasses that would make Elton John drool with envy. Rosie did a fantastic cover of the Joan Baez song “Love is just a four letter word”.
Rosie has a new album out now. “Simple Case of the Blues”. You can support her and her music at rosieflores.com
From a front porch in the green hills of Switzerland, Florian Schneider swaps songs with Tom. Tom’s song the “Rose of Roscrae” was recorded in Swiss German by Florian.
“And a time to cut the wild dogs loose“, echoed across lush greenery in the background.
Joe Ely joined the festival from Texas to promote his new album “Love in the Midst of Meyhem”
Ely performed his song “Indian Cowboy” .
Joe Ely stated that the song came to him “via Guy Clark and the Wringling Brothers Circus“.
He sang, “When the white horses leap the ring of fire”
Tom Russell introduced instrumentalist Fats Kaplan. The introduction showed Tom under an umbrella on a rainy afternoon In a cow pasture near his Swiss home. A red cow could be seen in the video feed grazing away, unaware or unbothered by Tom’s presence.
Tom relayed what Rambling Jack would say about “buskers”. The word comes from the Spanish word “Buscar” which means to seek.
Fats harmoniously played from his accordion a Tex mex sound.
Bill Hearne joined into the festival from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Hearne has a new cd coming out called “A very short time”.
Hearne did a wonderful job performing the Tom Russell/Ian Tyson tune “Navajo Rug”.
This section of the festival was a tribute to the late Dave Van Ronk. Van Ronk is known as The Godfather of 60s Folk.
Tom told of his time spent touring Europe along with Van Ronk and vocalist Nanci Griffin.
A street in New York was renamed Van Ronk in his memory.
Dave Van Ronk played the outcast role on Tom’s album “Man From GodKnows Where”
Tom Russell calls Dave “The mayor of folk heaven“.
The festival featured Ralph McTell from the UK. although I am not familiar with this artist , I decided that he looked like somewhat of a pirate as he had a large hooped earring. He strummed a great tune, and i enjoyed heraring him sing with British accent “ it’s a long way from Claire to here”.
I’ll plan to visit RalphMcTell.co.ukin the near future to learn more about this songwriter.
The online folk festival ended with a live feed from Caffe Lena. This coffee house in Saratoga Springs, New York has proudly hosted Folk Music since 1960.
Steve Gillette , who used to open for Ian and Sylvia Tyson , and his partner Cindy Mangsen picked the classic folk song “Darcy Farrow” to end the show.