Looking back at Texas rocker and singer/songwriter Joe Ely’s career it is undeniable that he has always been one of American music’s great episodic storytellers in song since his debut album appeared in 1977. In a career that has produced over 20 albums, Ely has oftentimes written and sung about characters that are almost always on the move, looking for or longing for something better in their lives. And while at first listen, Ely’s songs may sound deceptively simple, their impact and beauty only grow with each listen, always displaying the two trademarks of his work – his songwriting prowess and his compassion for his fellow human beings.
So, it should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his work that the quarantined Ely, along with his wife Sharon, having been inspired by the suffering caused by the coronavirus pandemic, would be able to dig deep into his musical treasure trove of unused songs from throughout the years and create a true masterpiece for our times, his latest album, Love In The Midst Of Mayhem (Rack’em Records).
This record, through the ten songs that Ely chose to let us hear, is a message of love and encouragement to all of us straight from the heart and hands of a superior songwriter.
On this transcendent collection, there are songs of comfort (“Soon All Your Sorrows Will Be Gone”, “Don’t Worry About It”, and “There’s Never Been”), songs of unbridled affection and emotion (“Your Eyes”, “All You Are Love”, and “Cry”), songs of introspection (“Garden of Manhattan”, “A Man And His Dog”, and “Glare of Glory), and tough-minded optimism (“You Can Rely On Me”).
Ely is telling us through the efficacy of his words and music that the only hope for all of us to get through our current communal crisis is to grab ahold and embrace the power that has always gotten us through tough times – the power of love, both on a personal and societal level. It is all around us and in front of us, these songs say to us, even though we don’t always notice it or see it.
While this may sound counterintuitive to say about a largely acoustic album, say it I will -the next time the specter of our current conditions gets you down, I beseech you to play this album loud, because I can practically guarantee you it will make you feel better. It’s that good. Bless you, Joe Ely.
Love in the Midst of Mayhem by Joe Ely is now available on the major music streaming sites and on his website .
Credits:GUITARS: Mitch Watkins, Joe Ely, Rob Gjersoe, Bradley Kopp, BASS: Roscoe Beck, Glen Fukunaga, Gary Herman, Jimmy Pettit, DRUMS: Pat Manske, Davis Mc Klarty, Joe Ely, Steve Meador, KEYBOARDS: Joel Guzman, Reese Wynans, Bill Ginn, ACCORDION: Joel Guzman, VOCALS: Joe Ely, ENGINEERS: Pat Manske, James Tuttle, Jim Wilson, Joe Ely