BIO

Satisfied At Last

I ain’t afraid of dyin’ / I got nothin’ to lose -- Joe Ely, “Satisfied at Last”

With Satisfied at Last, Joe Ely has made the album of his life. Literally."It reflects where I am and where I've been," he explains. "The whole record takes a kind of journey. As you reflect on it, you're just glad you made it. Everything adds up differently than you had thought it would."

Musically and lyrically, the song cycle represents a pilgrimage, from the vagabond troubadour's perspective of the album-opening "The Highway Is My Home" to the spiritual acceptance of the closing "Circumstance" (one of the two songs on the album written by fellow Flatlander Butch Hancock). It's a homecoming journeyHas reflected in the pivotal "Not That Much Has Changed"--that finds a restless spirit settling back and taking stock. It expresses the older-and-wiser insights of a seeker who has discovered that "heaven's here on earth, and so is hell," as he sings on "You Can Bet I'm Gone."

"I'm probably as pleased with this record as any I've done," says Ely. "Just like those records in the `80s with the loud rock and roll band felt right at the time. They were boisterous and rowdy and that's the way I felt then. And this record really sums up where I'm at right now."

Guitar powered and accordion laced, the music itself is classic Ely, underscoring his status as one of the true pioneers of the alt-country, Americana, "too rock for country, too country for rock" brigade. His boundary-blurring blend of rock, country, blues and folk has sometimes been termed "roadhouse music," but might most accurately be described as "Texas music," steeped in the heart of the Lone Star State. Over a career that spans some four decades, he's been embraced as a kindred spirit by artists as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, Linda Ronstadt and the Clash.

The album additionally benefits from Ely's creative autonomy, which allows him to record at his home studio in the Hill Country west of Austin, and then issue his music on his own Rack `Em Records. "I just do things differently on my own clock, when I don't have somebody breathing down my back," he explains. "Probably during the last two or three years I've recorded more than I've ever recorded in my life. For every record I've released I've probably recorded thirty or forty more songs that are just sketches for future stuff."
He's also brought his career full circle through a belated, ex-tended reunion with Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore in the Flat-landers. The three Lubbock buddies started recording together in the early 1970s, put the band on hold in favor of solo pursuits (that often in-cluded recording each other's songs), and have since regrouped for three well-received albums (most recently Hills and Valleys in 2009).

Partly as a result of his Flat-landers' activity, Ely hasn't issued a solo album this ambitious since 2003's Street of Sin. Yet these have been some of the most prolific years of his career: "I've released a book (Bonfire of Roadmaps, 2007) and two records with that book, songs that had to do with its chronology, and then two live albums," he says. "And getting together again with Butch and Jimmie influenced this record as well. Everything I've done over the last couple of years has led up to this record."

At the thematic heart of the album is an extended meditation on mortality, one that extends from the homespun faith expressed in Billy Joe Shaver's classic "Live Forever" through new Ely songs such as "You Can Bet I'm Gone" and the title track. "That's a big part of this whole record, and it kind of unfolded as I was making it," says Ely.

"There comes a point in your life when you have to take a long look at mortality. It's something you push aside and say you'll think about that later. But I thought I should just examine this thing, in a way that looks at the whole circle. And that's how songs like `Live Forever' and Butch's `Circumstance' fit in."As he sings in the title track, "I didn't take on the world/For fortune or fame/I set my direction/With a flickering flame." That direction has led him here and left him satisfied. At last. Or at least for now. ~