A Flatlanders show is about more than three great songwriters surprising with great lines. It's also about their bond. That became obvious toward the end, when they got the whole audience on their feet with "Gimme a Ride to Heaven, Boy," fellow Lubbock musician Terry Allen's hilarious boot-stomper about a hitchhiker who claims to be Jesus. Ely, Hancock, and Gilmore gathered around one mike, took turns with the verses, harmonized on the chorus, and then bobbed their heads in and out, trading vocals at exhilarating speed.
They finished their set with their 1970s classic "Dallas," and their encore ended with the blues standard "Sitting on Top of the World." There are two ways to sing this song. Bob Dylan sings it as if the world he sits atop is ending. But when the Flatlanders sing it, you believe they've got no worries, even though their baby's gone. That's because, when they sing it, the woman in the song isn't really the point. The point is their friendship, forged in song and still resonating every time they sing together.
The Flatlanders return to the Ark on Friday, May 7.
[Originally published in May, 2004.]