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Payin' Dues: Joe Ely

Texas singer, guitarist, novelist and pal of Joe Strummer returns after a four-year hiatus

Texan singer and guitarist Joe Ely honed his craft in The Flatlanders before going solo in 1977. A close friend of Joe Strummer’s, he sang backing vocals on The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go in 1981. He’s written two books, 2007’s Bonfire Of Roadmaps and 2014’s Reverb: An Odyssey. Panhandle Rambler, his first album in four years, is his soundtrack to life in his home state.

Tell us about Panhandle Rambler.
Panhandle Rambler was a revisiting of the place where my life and my love of music began. It’s the square northernmost top of Texas. I extended it to include the westernmost part of the state as well. It’s a landscape of great emptiness and hard beauty. It’s also a spiritual place. There has always been a danger aspect to it as well, with the unpredictable weather, constant wind and critters of all sizes and shapes that are best left alone. In the last 20 or so years, the drug wars and powerful cartels have added another element more dangerous than all the normal elements put together.

Panhandle Rambler is out now on Rack ’Em

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