When: Fri., Feb. 17, 9 p.m. 2012
One thing held in common by the great Texas troubadours—Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, Guy Clark—is a penchant for the tragic, and Joe Ely is no exception. But on his latest album, last year's Satisfied at Last (Rack 'Em), he leavens that darkness: though things rarely turn out the way we want them to, he seems to be saying, we find ways of getting by. The album opens with "The Highway Is My Home," a churning Dylan-esque rocker that despite its title isn't about an endless tour—it's from the point of view of a hopeless romantic who loses everything in the delusional pursuit of an old flame ("My heart was a windmill, my soul was a flood / I could feel her in my veins, I could feel her in my blood"). Most of the other songs adopt a somewhat less grandiose tone: "Not That Much Has Changed" begins like a refutation of Thomas Wolfe's dictum about going back home, then turns in the last verse to address the pain of abandonment and the absurdity of war, while "Mockingbird Hill" describes a pointless flirtation between folks watching their lives stand still. The reggaefied "Roll Again" cuts to the quick of the album's overarching theme: "Nobody's satisfied / With the road they chose to ride / Oh, let it go, roll again." Ely leads a four-piece band this weekend. —Peter Margasak See also Saturday. Go Long Mule opens.