Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Something to say
There are singers, and there are people with beautiful voices. The two are by no means mutually exclusive, but neither do they always coexist. Of course, there are also plenty of successful so-called singers-who aren't-and who don't have golden throats to boot, but don't get me started on that.
Jimmie Dale Gilmore is a singer-which is not to say that he has an unpleasant voice. (You can hear more than a little echo of Roy Orbison in his singing; and there was a singer with some pipes!) It is the voice of a man who has something to say and a convincing, authentic way of saying it.
Gilmore's sound hearkens back to early country-to his namesake, Jimmie Rodgers, and to the Carter Family, Ernest Tubb, and Hank Williams. You can hear that in his music-plus honky-tonk, white gospel, Texas swing, the south-of-the-border influence, Cajun, even Chicago blues. Gilmore grew up in that generations-old melded tradition. His father-the one who named him after Jimmie Rodgers-was a fine amateur guitar player who loved country music but whose radio played all those related channels. Gilmore has for nearly four decades continued to polish and burnish that musical heritage. As he sings, "I don't know where I'm going, but I know where I've been," and "When a treasure's yours, no need to steal one."
Which may be why, the first time you hear a Jimmie Dale Gilmore song, you feel as if you've heard it before-even as you're surprised by a turn of phrase or a melody that you know you haven't. He can wring more out of a three-chord, three-minute song than you thought was still possible. No formulaic, mini-soap operas here, though-Gilmore writes adult love songs: "Whatever I give up, love, it won't be you"; "You've forgotten that life's a treasure, not a trial." He also sings of, and from, a deep love of life and humanity: "Love, I am alone and I am not afraid to walk this world with
anyone, and never walk it crying, to live my life with all the world and never live it lying." As Debbie Elliott said about him on NPR's All Things Considered, "This is country when it was less glitz and more guts."
Gilmore was a founding member of the Flatlanders, one of the great country cult bands of all time, but for the last couple of decades he's had a solo career. His recordings always feature great musicians and just-right arrangements and production. When he comes to the Ark on Monday, October 13 (see Nightspots), though, Gilmore will be accompanied by only one sideman. It will be a chance to hear mostly his compelling voice, singing his songs just the way he first wrote them.
[Originally published in October, 2008.]