Ely Blues Buckles Main Street

By Bob Bahr

Picture this: You're downtown on a hot Sunday night, and you see a big, strapping Texan standing on the center line of Main Street, his stance wide and (could it be?) a glint of tequila in his eyes, and he's playing some of the best blistering blues rock you've ever heard.

Joe Ely

Joe Ely was a dream come true on the night of September 2nd at the American MusicFest downtown. Taking the Budweiser Main Street Stage at 10:00 p.m., Ely closed the third day of the festival with a performance that left people with their heads shaking in disbelief and rock 'n' roll grins Superglued to their faces. To put it briefly, Joe Ely was damn close to being the very essence of grungy roots rock 'n' roll.

Ely's electric guitar sound was full and fully competent, born in the blues and peppered with jazz dissonance. Ely's solos were fascinating, utilizing the full dynamics of the instrument to produce expressive, tasteful musical strolls over traditional blues chord progressions. His voice was good, strong and entirely likable in its straightforwardness.

Lyrically, Ely was blissfully apolitical, hurling rock songs meant for the feet and the gut such as the hard rocking "Got Hammered Last Night" and the redneck apology "Must Not Have Got a Lot of Sleep Last Night." Ely's band matched the frontman's momentum with music both rootsy and progressive, at times sounding like the Rolling Stones at their grungiest and at other times fresh and poppy like the Cars' early outings. And somehow it wasn't surprising to hear Ely's second guitarist doubling Ely's guitar lines in thirds in fine Duane Allman / Dickey Betts fashion.