Written by Eddie Ferranti
Jul 26, 2013 at 08:00 PM
ImageSometimes in the review world I live in you get to have “Deja Vu” all over again.

It was sometime in the early 1980’s that I got to be touched by the awesome live gig that is Joe Ely at the now defunct Rockefeller’s in Houston. On this night in deep West Texas at Alpine, Texas’ killer Granada Theater some twenty-five years later the man continued to blow me away.

He’s been dubbed the “Springsteen of Texas” for his stirring performances and tonight was no exception. It is beyond rare for a man with his pedigree to not mail in a gig once in awhile, but that is not Mr.Ely. Period. In his own words as he hit the stage he said: “Not much has changed, just some things have been re-arrainged!”

He never has a weak band backing him and tonight he featured the awesome talents of Lloyd Maines in tow on pedal steel guitar. Sweet indeed. JE spoke of becoming more nostalgic these days and finding himself looking back at the past more fondly than not and when he tore into the classic “All Just To Get To You.” It was vintage Ely time for sure.

The house was set up perfectly for Joe this night with plenty of room to boogie and seating everywhere that anybody could find-even the stairs in back!

Chestnuts flowed like a river with “All That You Need”, “You Can Bet I’m Gone” about counting your riches by all the friends you’ve left behind and “Settle for Love”. Hard to believe that Ely started his FIRST band 50 years ago when he was 14 in Lubbock, Texas.

His lyrics are so powerful and you can hear them throughout every song done with passion like it was the first time he ever sang them to an audience. Amazing trait indeed and helps explain his longevity in a world where “What have you done for me lately?” rules more often than not! His little stories from the road of life are also most impressive and none better than the intro to Billy Joe Shaver’s epic “Live Forever” where JE said BJS wanted him to introduce him when he was being “indicted” into the Hall of Fame! He said of course we know that happened years later to Billy!

“Its a Little Like Love” just smoked the theater to a pitch of no return and Ely did not take his foot off the gas to the finish line of a beyond solid 90 minute gig with “She Never Spoke Spanish To Me”, “Crazy Lemon”, ultra goose bump inducing “Me & Billy the Kid”, “Dallas” and the always cool “The Road Goes on Forever”.  And while the show didn’t quite go on forever, the party in this quaint little town most certainly showed NO signs of ending.

ImageTalk about a lead-in “table setter” for Joe Ely, The Derailers fit that bill and then some. Billed as a band who boasts to be “Having a good time, all the time!” they did not let me down this night at all. Hailing out of music hotbed Austin, Texas these days the 20 year old squad greased up the Granada with their killer brand of flat out Boogie Woogie Honky Tonk if you will.

Sparkin’ out of the gate with “She Left Me Cold” they had folks out on the dance floor right away cuttin’ a rug major. The now lead singer and guitarist, Brian Hofeldt, stears this rockabilly boat like a rock ‘n roll captain for sure.  It was ampin’ it up in Alpine big time as they scorched “Lies, Lies, Lies”, “Come On” with an Elvis/Chris Isaak shakin’ beat, belly rubbing dancin’ “Alone with You” and “Just One More Time” that BH boasted they played on Conan O’Brien’s show!

These cats woke up this joint-and town-for me after 2 days of non-stop music in surrounding Marfa, Marathon and Alpine itself. The Derailers had a good bud in the late Buck Owens and Hofeldt channels his signature yelp great in tunes like “I’m Gonna Love, Love Love You” and “Big in Vegas”.

Their blues meets rockabilly sound is so infectious that it made it beyond easy to party here! Keyboardist Basil McJagger acted as a conduit between himself and Hofeldt that fueled the fire of fun on Crystals’ tune “She Kissed Me’ and “Hey Valerie Come Dance with Me”. No song summed up this band’s performance than the say it like it is “Cold Beer, Hot Women and Good Old Country Music”! The Derailers play regularly in Austin and you can bet I’ll be hot on their trail to check them out in the future.

ImageThe VIP Happy Hour rocked at Granada, too! Thanks to the kindness of hard working Mr. Stewart Ramser, HMR had the pleasure of having the West Texas “red carpet” rolled out to begin the raucous good time that ensued! For at least an hour Tejas Gold beer and heavy VBB sponsor, Bird Dog Whiskey, were flowing to the VIP’s in the crowd.

Throw in non-stop goodies on the food table plus a bonus gig by sweet pea, Ashley Monical, and the evening was off to a wonderful start indeed.

AM is an Austin native who has traveled a bunch honing her craft and had some noticeable pipes that showcased her sultry smooth delivery. She made it to Hollywood in the 10th season of American Idol and her soulful sounds, especially on the keyboard, rocked. Hats off again to Stewart who seemed to be EVERYWHERE at Viva Big Bend and congrats to all of his hard working staff who made our visit a very enjoyable one indeed.

God Bless Texas Music Magazine, too. The first thing I did when I got back to H-Town was send in my subscription form for two years! If you get the itch for a great road trip of music, check out Viva Big Bend in 2014 folks…The third Annual is ON the books already!