Los Angeles, CA – January 30, 2023 – In 1977, Joe Ely boldly emerged from West Texas, establishing himself as one of country’s most exciting songwriters and fiercely rebellious new voices. With his unique blend of hardcore honky-tonk, Tex Mex, rockabilly, and rock ‘n’ roll swagger, Ely was well on his way to becoming one of the genre’s most recognizable and respected artists. At the core of this foundational period was a trio of broadly-acclaimed albums: Joe Ely(1977), Honky Tonk Masquerade(1978), and Down on the Drag (1979).
Now, more than four decades and thirty-plus albums later, MCA Nashville/UMe and Ely have partnered to celebrate these long-out-of-print titles with three special reissues. Set for release on February 17 and available for pre-order today, Joe Ely, Honky Tonk Masquerade, and Down on the Drag will all return to vinyl for the first time since 1980. Housed in replicas of their original jackets, each album has been meticulously remastered from their original analog tapes by GRAMMY®-winning engineer Dave Donnelly and pressed on 180-gram vinyl. All LPs will also be reissued on digital platforms – and available for the first time in stunning 192/24 HD audio.
Pre-order Joe Ely, Honky Tonk Masquerade, and Down on the Drag: https://joeely.lnk.to/Vinyl
“It was exciting for me to make these first three albums in the beginning,” says Joe Ely. “Now I’m really glad MCA and UMe chose to remaster and rerelease these albums this year and they’ll once again be available on vinyl.”
While Joe Elyintroduced the singer-songwriter to the world, the 30-year-old Lubbock native had built a following in his home state long before his first album dropped. After co-founding The Flatlanders in his early 20s, alongside Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, Ely embarked on a solo career, assembling a backing band that included steel guitarist Lloyd Wayne Maines, guitarist Rick Hulett, and bassist Gregg Wright. By the time Ely signed to MCA, his band had expanded by eight members – all of whom joined him at Chip Young’s Tennessee studio to record their first album.
Released at the height of the outlaw country music craze, Ely’s eponymous 1977 debut announced its namesake as the scene’s most exciting new voice. Featuring all original material (penned by Ely, as well as his former Flatlanders bandmates), the album offered up a variety of memorable western ballads, including “She Never Spoke Spanish to Me,”“Tennessee’s Not The State I’m In,” and “If You Were a Bluebird.”Other highlights include the rollicking tracks, “Suckin’ a Big Bottle of Gin,” and album closer “Johnny Blues,” both bolstered by the legendary Muscle Shoals Horns. To celebrate the release of the album, Ely rode a covered wagon to New York City’s Lone Star Café where he performed for five nights.
Following a busy schedule of touring around the U.S., U.K., and Europe, Ely and his band returned to the studio to record their follow up, Honky Tonk Masquerade. Long considered a masterpiece by critics around the globe, Ely’s sophomore album cemented him as a force in the industry. Melody Maker declared that “Honky Tonk Masquerade will establish Joe Ely as the most exciting and talented country rock artist around today. Bar none.” Village Voice’s Robert Christgau, the “dean of American rock critics,” exclaimed, “Ely’s emotional openness seems neither sentimental nor contrived. He balls the jack with irrefutable glee and sings the lonesome ones so high and hard he makes the next room sound 500 miles away. In short, there hasn’t been anything like this since Gram Parsons.”
Spanning a variety of styles, Honky Tonk Masquerade showcased the breadth of Ely’s talents, particularly through introspective numbers like “Boxcars,”“Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown,”and “Because of the Wind.” Featuring such fan favorites as “Fingernails” and the title track, Honky Tonk Masquerade has since appeared on several rankings, including Rolling Stone’s “50 Essential Albums of the 70s” (hailing it as “the decade’s most sure-footed country-rock collaboration”) and the encyclopedic “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.”
The final album in Ely’s ‘70s discography, 1979’s Down on the Drag, found the artist reaching new heights in his career, following an extensive tour with Linda Ronstadt, a feature in TIME magazine, and an inaugural performance on “Austin City Limits,” where he’d become a fixture and favorite. Looking to mix things up, Ely paired up with producer Bob Johnston, whose extensive credits included Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Leonard Cohen. Together, they recorded an acclaimed collection of poignant ballads (including the Butch Hancock-penned “Standin’ at the Big Hotel” and“Fools Fall in Love”) and energetic stompers (“Crawdad Train,”“Crazy Lemon,”and the title track, among them).
As the decade turned, Ely’s star would only continue to rise, as he played sold-out shows across the world, recorded with The Clash, and launched Lubbock’s popular Tornado Jam festival. And yet, these were still the early days of his lengthy and highly influential career. Today, Ely remains one of the great prides of Texas and one of Americana’s most admired acts, with a solo catalog that boasts more than 20 studio and live albums, including 2020’s Love in the Midst of Mayhem.
Additionally, Ely continues to tour and record with The Flatlanders, who released their latest album, Treasure of Love, in 2021, while he earned a GRAMMY® for his work with Los Super Seven, a supergroup featuring members of Los Lobos, Ozomatli, and Calexico. Outside of the studio, Ely is also an accomplished author, who has published two novels. Among his many honors, he has received a Lifetime Achievement Award for Live Performance from The Americana Music Association and was a 2016 inductee into the Texas Heritage Songwriter Associations Hall of Fame. That same year, Ely was named the Official Musician for the State of Texas, following in the footsteps of Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and Billy Gibbons. In 2017, he became the first musician to be honored by the prestigious Texas Institute of Letters.
Ely will close the 48th season of Austin City Limits with a Hall of Fame tribute to him recorded live at ACL’s 8th Annual Hall of Fame honors on October 27, 2022. The musical salute features performances from Ely as well as revered Lone Star musicians and his longtime collaborators in The Flatlanders, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, along with fellow Texans Rodney Crowell and Marcia Ball. The hour-long special episode includes a memorable induction by renowned Texan author Lawrence Wright along with historic highlights from the influential Texas legend’s eleven appearances on the ACL stage. The show will broadcast on February 25th on PBS stations. For more info, visit: https://acltv.com/2022/12/12/austin-city-limits-announces-full-season-48-broadcast-schedule/
Joe Ely Track List
- I Had My Hopes Up High
- Mardi Gras Waltz
- She Never Spoke Spanish To Me
- Gambler’s Bride
- Suckin’ A Big Bottle of Gin
- Tennessee’s Not The State I’m In
- If You Were A Bluebird
- Treat Me Like A Saturday Night
- All My Love
- Johnny Blues
Honky Tonk Masquerade Track List
- Cornbread Moon
- Because Of The Wind
- Jericho (Your Walls Must Come Tumbling Down)
- Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown
- Honky Tonk Masquerade
- I’ll Be Your Fool
- West Texas Waltz
- Honky Tonkin’
Down on the Drag Track List
- Fools Fall In Love
- B.B.Q & Foam
- Standin’ At The Big Hotel
- Crazy Lemon
- Crawdad Train
- In Another World
- She Leaves You Where You Are
- Down On The Drag
- Time For Travelin’