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  • Writer's pictureTerry Pace


Updated: Apr 2, 2020

Joe Ely (1947) has been singing the song Boxcars since the late 1970's right after his friend and sometimes Flatlanders band-mate, Butch Hancock wrote it while they and their other band-mate Jimmy Dale Gilmore all lived together in Lubbock Texas ( I also lived in Lubbock then but not with the Flatlanders). Of the many Ely songs I enjoy, Boxcars is one of my favorites. I think the musical connotation of being lonely and having no where to go so just wandering down to the rail road tracks and watching the boxcars roll is so well done. I also think that the lines: "There's some big ol' Buicks at the Baptist Church, Cadillacs at the Church of Christ..." is so funny. Growing up in small town west Texas, one always looks at the cars parked at church's to see who is where or not on a given Sunday. And maybe it's just me and Butch Hancock, but I always thought I saw fancier cars like big ol' Cadillacs at the Church of Christ and just solid old Buick's at the Baptist Church. I'm gonna get in trouble if I go on and anyone reads this, then I'd have to figure out what the Methodists drive and so on, so that's all, just funny to me. Joe Ely is a legend in original Texas music. Growing up in Amarillo and then Lubbock before latter moving to Austin, he has the state covered. Also being Tex-Mex himself he relates with the fusion of Mexican and Texas cultures and the love that is possible between these peoples. Ely toured with The Clash bringing them to Texas for a classic tour. In addition to being a part of the Flatlanders, he has played with the super group Los Super Seven and is one of Bruce Springsteen's favorite musicians. He is the true fusion of country with rock & roll along with Tex-Mex music thrown in generously for spice! I have seen Joe twice in person and loved both concerts. One with the Flatlanders (a birthday present from my family) and once solo (and by myself). But when I saw him as a solo act with his band and he played Boxcars it blew me away. This was at the very small Blue Door venue in Oklahoma City and I was about 20 feet away from him. He kept the musical train going a good 5 minutes after the song otherwise ended and I felt like for sure I was on a train with him. If you enjoy original Texas music just listen to Joe Ely or the Flatlanders!

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