Recorded in a West Texas city even less glamorous than the Flatlanders' hometown of Lubbock, the newly released The Odessa Tapes (New West) goes back to the trio's very origins. Buddies Jimmie Dale Gilmore (the cosmic hippie and then-lead singer), Butch Hancock (the desert sage) and Joe Ely (the rock and roller) had not even been performing very long when at a Lubbock DJ's behest, they headed to former Buddy Holly guitarist Tommy Allsup's Odessa studio in early 1972 and cut 14 songs in a single afternoon. They brought along the musical saw that added a hint of otherworldliness to the material and prompted some to call the Flatlanders the first alternative-country group. Mostly they're just outstanding songwriters, and were back then. Some songs here, like the haunting "Shadow of the Moon," have been lost to history until now, but others ("Dallas," "Down in My Hometown") have been jewels in the crown of Lone Star songcraft for a very long time. After many years of solo careers and onstage guest spots, the Flatlanders became a more-or-less full-time group after making 2002's Now Again, and The Odessa Tapes makes it easy to hear how they could rekindle their high-plains chemistry so seamlessly.
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