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Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Braver Newer World,  Elektra CD 61836-2, 1996 (47:40)

Jimmie mixes it up in high contrast

The sweet, pure, intensely personal, wide-opened honest Jimmie Dale Gilmore–the man from Texas who sings a song like no other with a voice that would make Hank Williams weep, has traveled off to a Braver Newer World and sent this, his first letter home. The irony lies in the route. Gilmore has circled around and ended up younger and more raw than we have seen him before. Under T-Bone Burnett’s direction and production, he shows us a new world that is a little dark, perhaps a little murky and certainly more complex emotionally than the traditional pure vista’s of his past. If you’ve been a Jimmie Dale devotee, you might be confused or even put off by his newest (and to some of us, too long awaited) release. I listened to it superficially several times without much of a favorable reaction. It wasn’t until I sat down with headphones, listened seriously and read the liner notes that I began to appreciate what the man was trying to do and why. With that, came an understanding and respect for his artistic stretching and flexing. If this is your first introduction to the artist you may find him to be more contemporary and leading-edge than his record store classifications of "country," "western," or "folk" would imply.

To begin with, The Voice is still there–that clear, humble, dusty twang offering itself as a gift of insight and love direct to the heart. What has been added is a complexity of instrumentation darker than the standard you would expect from a nominee for Contemporary Folk Artist at the 1994 Grammys. The most exciting improvement to his style in this release is the rhythms. Jim Keltner is referred to in the liner notes as "a percussion wizard" and there truly isn’t a cut on the album that doesn’t reflect a wonderful new sense of texture and phrasing. "Come Fly Away," for example, an A. B. Strehli Jr. composition, lulls you with the muted watery constancy of a fetal heartbeat. "Borderland" has all the familiar changes of the genre but the rhythms are so much more complex that it is transformed well beyond its foundation of a Dylanesque ballad. "There She Goes" is just plain old great fun with flamingo guitar and a tip of the hat to Buddy Holly (think "Peggy Sue" with fuzz tone), plus a definite Roy Orbison sighting. The line "It seems like always" at the end of the first chorus had me reading the fine print to see if Orbison was given credit for it posthumously. Orbison is also lurking offstage during "Outside the Lines" a hard heavy driving on-your-feet-standing-up-dancing-at-the-concert Texas rocker where the beat sets the pace and keeps it up to the sweaty end. The energy and wide-open possibilities of early Texas rock are definitely alive and still kicking.

However, I can’t talk about the percussion section without discussing "Because of the Wind," a Joe Ely contribution which Gilmore has been singing for 25 years. It’s the one place on the album where the prominent rhythm, the artist, and the song seem to work at cross purposes. I want pure distilled Jimmie Dale here and get instead a muffled heavy bass thump which takes precedence over his voice and every other bit of instrumentation.

Probably the two most challenging cuts for old-time Gilmore listeners are the first, "Braver Newer World," and "Headed for a Fall"–the first written alone by Gilmore, and the second a Gilmore, Hammond and Welch collaboration. "Braver Newer World" presents such a contrast between the sweet openhearted lyrics of "Listen to your singing/ love will be your voice/ The gift that you are bringing/ is all for all, your choice" and the incessant, noisy fuzzy garage-band guitars, that I just couldn’t get past my longing for some clean riffs and straight notes. Added into the body on this is a section of big romantic orchestration coupled with a bridge reminiscent of slide guitars and sweet love song dancing. But where those fuzzed-out guitars fit in, I’m just not really sure. "Headed for a Fall" is another cut full of contrasts. The opening bars immediately took me back to junior high and "Here Comes the Night." The focus soon changes from the strong, hard opening beat to the tenderly optimistic love song lyrics of "We’ll have days together in the sunshine/ Autumns twilight, winter’s darkness too/ Darlin’ I will hold you, my love will enfold you/ Cause you need me, Babe, just like I need you" and then grows to a totally rocking ending complete with big horns which finally fade out in complete discord. Good Lord! Everything here but the kitchen sink. Hey, but why not...? He makes it work.

A special gift on this CD is Blind Lemon Jefferson’s "Black Snake Moan." Jimmie, is that you? Whoa! He sings it like he was born to it and backs it by a quality of recording that compliments the vintage texture. This one’s the wild card that it brings it all back around to where it began.

If you buy this album (and I suggest you do), and if it is your first Gilmore, you should balance the new with the older and add a copy of  After a While or  Spinning Around the Sun. Or, if you’re really hooked, the 1990 Rounder Records reissue of the 1972 recording–  The Flatlanders: More a Legend than a Band. Those of us who only know this man and his music from the releases, tours and liner notes, had some warning of the depth and breadth of his adventurousness back in 1994 when he collaborated with Mudhoney on the Sub Pop label. This, his newest venture, may at times be a stretch for his longtime listeners but, heck, if he’s willing to do the legwork, I applaud his vision and thank him most sincerely for the new rhythms in the post cards sent back home. I’ll be looking forward to the next one.–  Kate Boris Brown


Jimmie Dale Gilmore, vocals; Jim Keltner, drums; Greg Leisz, guitars; Jeff Scheff, bass; Jon Brion, guitars, bass, optigon, continental baroque; T-Bone Burnett, guitar; others, including horns and woodwinds arranged by Darrell Leonard.


Produced by T-Bone Burnett; engineered by Pat McCarthy, Daniel Bosworth, Mike Piersante; mastered by Arnie Acosta at the Mastering Lab.

song titles

Braver Newer World • Come Fly Away • Borderland • Headed for a Fall • Long Long Time • Sally • There She Goes • Where Is Love Now? • Black Snake Moan • Because of the Wind • Outside the Lines

Copyright © 1997 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.