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The Flatlanders: Wheels of Fortune

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Considering the accursed path followed by progressive country band The Flatlanders for the last 32 years, any new releases should probably be welcomed as musical miracles immune to any gripes or critiques. Probably. Band members Jimmie Dale Gilmour, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock all pursued solo careers following the instant obscurity which plagued their 1972 Hinduism-meets-saw-playing-meets-classic-AM-radio masterpiece Jimmie Dale and the Flatlanders (renamed More a Legend than a Band after a 1990 release), but the three are poised to become a real no-foolin' band again with their two post-reunion releases: 2002's Now Again and the new Wheels of Fortune. However, while both previous Flatlanders releases were collaborative writing efforts, Wheels is instead a collection of songs written by individual members and sung by all. This arrangement makes measuring the contributions of each member against one another almost inevitable, but also makes Wheels feel more like a fractured compilation than a seamless big-R release. While each member has repeatedly proven his individual talents over the last three decades, Wheels is still the only Flatlanders release to have both distinct high (Hancock/Gilmore) and low (Ely) points. Wheels is a must for Flatlanders fans, but greenhorns are advised—no, ordered—to start with More a Legend.