>One thing you have to give Flatlanders Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock: Their hearts have always been in the right place. The trio's latest album, Hills & Valleys, fits perfectly in the Obama era, one begun with a serious push to deal with the plethora of problems facing us the people. These grizzled West Texas troubadours touch on everything from the broken immigration system to the broken banking system, and all without any brazen partisan axe-grinding. When Ely sings "I'm leavin' California for the Dust Bowl / They took it all, there's nowhere else to go / The pastures of plenty are burning by the sea / I'm just a homeland refugee," no thinking person in this country should not get that. This is music meant to bring people together, not drive them apart; music to lift the spirit, not drag it down. Like Woody Guthrie, whose spirit and ethos resonate throughout the disc, these restless West Texans are attempting to redefine and refocus patriotism, hoping to move us all toward a kinder, gentler world.
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