Story and Photos by Lee Daley. I first ran into Jimmie Dale Gilmore while on a writing assignment in Cambridge, MA, when a friend excitedly told me the singer, composer and guitarist was performing that evening at a local blues venue. That was twenty years ago and while the club is long gone, the legendary Gilmore is still rocking out blues, rock and country tunes and I’m still following him here and there to be transported by his heartfelt tenor voice and versatile guitar skills.
Gilmore has been a member of The Flatlanders since 1972, along with Butch Cassidy and Joe Ely. The three traveling troubadours hail from Lubbock, Texas where they began their musical journey as high school teenagers inspired by Bob Dylan and Lubbock local, Buddy Holly. Gilmore took time out from his music, when in the seventies, he spent seven years in a Colorado ashram studying metaphysics, only to ultimately decide that his spirituality was best expressed through his music.
All three Flatlanders perform individually and as a group. Not long after first seeing Gilmore on the East Coast, I learned the singer, songwriter was slated nearby for a one-night stand at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, CA. Again, he performed solo, his reedy, ethereal tenor voice filling the space with warmth and a touch of melancholy. And so, I became a fan, listening and loving Jimmie Dale Gilmore whether he performed solo or with his talented buddies, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock, the Flatlanders.
Over this past Fourth of July weekend, Gilmore and Hancock traveled once again to Northern California to play a three-day outdoor concert music venue, Rancho Nicasio. They dedicated the concert to fellow Flatlander, Joe Ely, who was recovering from surgery. Enthusiastic cheers from the audience ensued as Gilmore promised that all three would return next year for a repeat performance.
With an outdoor, intimate setting that includes a picnic on the lawn option, more than 400 enthusiasts reveled in the warmth, the connection, and the camaraderie that Gilmore and Hancock exuded. Traveling men as they are, several songs contain lyrics both poetic and poignant about the road, the journey, the horizons they traverse. All together, the repertoire contains a mix of country, folk, bluegrass, and rock and roll that falls well outside of the mainstream. I especially loved listening to Butch Hancock’s “If You Were a Bluebird” sung by him as both musicians strummed along. Hancock often interspersess guitar notes with a bit of his mellow and moving harmonica, (Also recorded by Emmy Lou Harris.)
Returning often from their Texas homes, all three Flatlanders have performed in San Francisco Golden Gate Park at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Alert: They are on the roster again there this Fall. Visit the website for more information. Link listed below.
Three-time Grammy Award nominee, Gilmore has always been widely loved for his versatile guitar prowess. His work reflects the influence of rhythm and blues especially when he is not crooning a heartfelt ballad.Though,from Gilmore, everything seems heartfelt. American Roots music plays a major role in his repertoire with “I think I’m gonna go downtown” citing heartbreak and hope while shameless sentimentality can poignantly overpower a ballad such as “I was the One” originally recorded by Elvis Presley.
About the Flatlanders longevity, Gilmore said in an interview with Terry Gross on “Fresh Air”: “A lot of groups our age are either dead or not speaking to each other anymore, but I think part of the reason The Flatlanders are still together is that we’ve all had our own separate careers along the way. We’re all such strange individualists, but we can co-captain this ship together because every time we come back to it, we feel that same magic we felt when we first started playing together”
From Cambridge, MA to San Francisco and beyond, listening to Jimmie Dale Gilmore and The Flatlanders has been a great ride. I hope you enjoy their down home camaraderie the next time they perform near your hometown.
Rancho Nicasio: A bucolic scenic drive along California backroads takes you to this “off the beaten path” music venue and restaurant in the Redwoods. Live music year-round with a seasonal outdoor stage and lawn seating. BBQ on the lawn available from the restaurant’s excellent kitchen. Located in Nicasio Center in West Marin County. https://www.ranchonicasio.com/
Two more local gems for live music are: The Redwood Room with live music in its art filled lounge and. The Top of the Mark with guitar-driven jazz events. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival this Fall is scheduled for September 29 through October 1st in Golden Gate Park.