Streets of Sin
The new Joe Ely disk just reinforces my 20-odd-year appreciation for this legendary West Texas songwriter and bandleader. Opening with “Fightin’ for My Life,” by occasional cohort Butch Hancock, this set of tunes is steeped in a sod-buster’s wisdom and a barroom troubadour’s romanticism. Those expecting Ely’s customary honky-tonk rowdiness might be set back on their heels by a first listen, but if they settle down on a kitchen chair and bend an ear, they’ll find themselves treated to a batch of songs that examines an equally valid side of the human endeavor. It’s a rare writer who combines romance and honesty in one lyric. But when Ely sings, “Because you knew I needed laughter/ because it heals the wounded fool/ Because you saw the near hereafter/ That’s why I love you like I do,” you know he’s not kidding. Neither am I; this one’s well worth having.