It’s been over a decade since the great Texas songwriter Butch Hancock - who along with his pals Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore is one of The Flatlanders – played a solo show in Philadelphia. So that qualifies toight's gig in the upstairs band room at Fergie's Pub on Sansom Street in which Hancock enthusiast John Train will be opening, as something of a special occasion.
(The show was originally scheduled for the Tin Angel but was canceled, and it's through the righteous efforts of John Train, the nom de plume of Jon Houlon, that's it's been reborn at Fergie's, sparing Hancock the need to travel to Bethlehem to see him at Godfrey Daniels on Wednesday.)
As the Flatlanders go, Ely’s the hard driving rocker, Gilmore’s the ghostly interstellar vocalist, and Hancock the scratchy-voiced Dylanesque lyric writing genius whose songs like “Boxcars,” “Leo and Leona” and “She Never Spoke Spanish To Me” wrap kernels of philosophical wisdom up in winning words of West Texas wit.
Last October, I found myself pretty close to the middle of nowhere, hard by the Rio Grande and the Mexican border in Terlingua, Texas, on the way to Big Bend National Park. On a two-for-one chili burger Monday night at the Starlight Theater, I bumped into Hancock, who's also an architect, visual artist and photographer, among other things, and has been working on his complete-with-recording-studio Buckminster Fuller-style geodesic dome out of beer cans and mud outside the Terlinghua ghost town for a couple of decades.
Hancock - who has a new solo album called Seven Cities Of Gold, which features the other Flatlanders coming out in July - was getting ready to get up on the bandstand sit with his pal Butch Morgan at the Starlight. Naturally, what was supposed to be two or three wound p being a dozen, and the evening utned into pretty much the most satisfyingly surprising open mike performance I've ever witnessed. Tonight's show at Fergie's will be considerably closer to home, and hopefully just as good.
"Boxcars" is below. I took that picture outside Hancock's house in Terlingua in the Chihuahuan desert. Showtime tonight at Fergie's is 7:30. Ed Russakoff, who performs as Rustic Music Service, opens the show, and John Train will likely get up on stage for a couple of songs with Butch. Info here.