The fact that Texas music titans Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock - on their first go-around as The Flatlanders in 1972 - were completely rejected by the country music establishment is surprising in retrospect but, ultimately, poetic. That each went on to have formidable solo careers is a testament to their talent and determination. Add to this their diverse yet complimentary styles - Ely the street-wise rocker, Gilmore the mystic with the classic country voice, and Hancock the cerebral folk singer - and you've got a story of one of the most extraordinary kinships in American musical history.
Ely, Gilmore, and Hancock initially reunited as The Flatlanders in 1998 to do a one-off recording, at the behest of Robert Redford's people, for the soundtrack of the film The Horse Whisperer. It was so much fun that the trio regrouped and cut an entire album. The result, Now Again (2002), was unanimously received as a triumph, prompting Mojo Magazine to dub the group a "country Beatles." It was only a matter of weeks after the band had completed an 80-date U.S. and European tour when it re-entered the studio. "We didn't want to go another 30 years before we made a record," Ely says. In March 2003, The Flatlanders and their band convened at Ely's Austin studio and cut more than 30 tracks, 14 of which appeared on the 2004 release Wheel of Fortune. The tracks that made the cut are absolute wonders of songcraft, sung by three of the most authentic voices in music today.