Two or three great musicians get together after their fame is at its peak and form a supergroup: old story. Three great musicians get together as unknowns, record amazing songs that do not get released, then go on to outstanding solo careers while their early work gradually acquires legendary status: new story. The Flatlanders were formed in Lubbock, Texas back in 1972 by then-unknowns Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock. They recorded what twenty years later would come out as “More A Legend Than A Band,” but everything was shelved back then and went unreleased as they went their separate, solo ways. Gilmore took a long hippy trip in an ashram before becoming an Austin legend, Ely somehow hooked up with Joe Strummer and collaborated a bit with The Clash, and Hancock just kept at the progressive country thing, gaining a reputation as one of the premier songwriters of our time. But you can’t keep the genius of The Flatlanders under wraps forever, and as their early sessions eventually saw release, their place as pioneers of an alternative brand of country music became secure. They started reuniting from time to time and recording new music. They released “The Odessa Tapes” last year, their recently rediscovered earliest recorded music, just forty years after its creation, and it sounds as fresh as yesterday. Songs like “Dallas” and “Stars in My Life” are wistful, smart and accessible music that conjures up the likes of Guy Clark and Willie Nelson as much as it predicts the likes of Uncle Tupelo and the latter-day stars of insurgent country. Now they’re back together and playing Chicago. It ain’t quite as crazy as the story of “Searching for Sugar Man,” but it’s close. That’s the downside of all the drugs people were taking back in the early seventies—folks kept losing things, like seminal music. (Brian Hieggelke)
April 6 at The Mayne Stage, 1328 West Morse, maynestage.com, 7:30pm and 10pm. $40. 18+.