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The Flatlanders 

Wheels of Fortune (New West)

With the release of the second album since the Flatlanders' rebirth, the Texas trio is finally more a band than a legend. From the sounds of it, the group's stint on the road after the release of Now Again, its 2002 comeback LP, merged Butch Hancock, Joe Ely, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore into a bona fide roots-country-rock outfit. Wheels of Fortune is noticeably leaner-sounding and more band-oriented than its predecessor. It also makes for an interesting restatement of these fellas' reunion.

Now Again was a celebration of the group entity from the ground up; all but two songs were three-way collaborations. The threesome is back to writing solo on Wheels, but with an interesting twist: There's a whole lot of song-swapping goin' on here. Ely delivers his signature moon-baying wail as he lays out the Gilmore oldie "Midnight Train." Gilmore is a natural to articulate the mystical reasoning of "Once Followed by the Wind," which was penned by Hancock. And while one member or another may check out periodically for a solo venture, the Flatlanders' chemistry is too good to abandon for keeps.

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