Isn’t it cool that sometimes you can just hear a song and the feel the nostalgia of a different world come through the music? The Odessa Tapes is the embodiment of that idea. In 1972, Texas musicians Butch Hancock, Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore came together and recorded this single album, capturing a photograph of good times in a good place that would be hard-pressed for duplication in the early 21st Century.
Though not quite country or folk, the songs on this album marry the best of both genres in a smooth flow of simple music. Each song reminds us of times gone by in silky voice melodies reminiscent of Roy Orbison and fresh bluegrass string-pickin’ that doesn’t just belong on the album; it’s the perfect fit. Everything about this disc is simple; each track skirts a mere three-minute limit, it’s played with acoustic beauty and the lyrics are straightforward storytelling. We can almost feel the breeze running through our hair and the wet grass between our toes as we sit and listen to a nameless relative plucking out the chords on the porch swing. This is the type of music people listen to when they either have no cares in the world or want a brief escape from them.
You can hear the songwriting talents of the trio throughout their music, and each track is their gift of talent to the listener. There is no deviation to their range, and there doesn’t need to be. In the few simple, non-electronic chords they share with us, they express the whole range of emotions that define the genres being dabbled within. They don’t need to prove their skills through their songs, because the music speaks for itself, the sign of a good musician. It may seem as if they are holding back, but it is unrestrained and open, and we hear what The Flatlanders want us to hear. Despite being recorded in the early ’70s, this is what we imagine coming through the radio when our grandparents spent their Friday nights in the living room listening to the Grand Ol’ Opry. Simply put: it’s timeless music with timeless themes.
This is a good CD with no hidden ideas. The Odessa Tapes is the perfect musical alternative to alternative music.