Musta Notta Gotta Lotta
[MCA 5183]

The cover photo of Joe Ely on Musta Notta Gotta Lotta seems to imply two things.

First, that Ely is Joe Strummer's cousin. And while it's true they resemble each other, the kinship is only musical - when the Clash toured the southwest, Ely opened for them, much to Mick and Joe's approval.

Second, that compared to the fresh faced country boy on his debut LP, the gaunt, duck-tailed rocker on Lotta has experienced a musical honing and toughening. And he has.

Like Creedence's John Fogerty with more genuine, less mythic country roots; like Graham Parker but less angry; like Springsteen without the Savior complex; Ely is a working class rocker who strives to revitalize simple but still valid rock and roll forms. Imagine the Iron City House Rockers with a more rhythmic drummer and a Texas consciousness that harkens back to Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, and Hank Williams, and filters a cowboy combination of aloofness and vulnerability through the grainy screen of early rock and roll. Such is Ely's band, and their version of Wynonie Harris' "Good Rocking Tonight'' lets us hear that news as if for the first time, standing in a dancehall discovering the new power of the music that has become our heritage.

This is music for the late night psychic jukebox that sounds, to its credit, like we've heard it before, coming in from the rain to a blue cafe.

- Paul Evans