Gilmore tunes Varsity into classic country
By John Wirt
Jimmie Dale Gilmore, a singer-songwriter whose piercing voice slices to the spiritual bone of a song, gave a performance of rare beauty Friday night at the Varsity Theatre. That's no surprise. Gilmore's a member of the great gang of Texas singer-songwriters that includes Lyle Lovett, the late Townes Van Zandt and Willie Nelson.
Opening the show with the evocative title track of his latest album, "One Endless Night," Gilmore sang with such unaffected conviction that it seemed he really lived such a night.
Backed by a four-piece group that featured harmony singers and two multi-instrumentalists who broadened the concert's palette with accordion, mandolin and acoustic, slide and electric guitars, Gilmore devoted much of his concert to songs from "One Endless Night."
No problem there. The album - including compositions by John Hiatte, Van Zandt, Butch Hancock (Gilmore's partner with Joe Ely in the legendary Flatlanders) - may be the best of the 55-year-old singer's records.
Gilmore followed "One Endless Night" with the sweetly rolling "Banks of the Guadalupe." Then came one of the evening's relatively upbeat selections, "No Lonesome Tune," a Van Zandt song in which a long-lost high roller vows to change his wayward life. Gilmore said he recorded it because it was the closest thing to a happy song in Van Zandt's catalog.
While the emphasis was on "One Endless Night," Gilmore also turned to his back pages, joking that the bluegrassy "Another Colorado was written so long ago that it's now a folk song. Another older song, the outlaw-country classic, "Dallas," kicked the show's tempo way up, dueling electric guitars included.
"I think some people think that I'm a country singer," a serious Gilmore told the crowd a few songs prior to "Dallas." "I can't tell. I used to love country music. I guess they still call it country now. I just don't love it anymore."
Gilmore's remarkable attentive Varsity crowd also got a preview of the next generation of Texas talent. The singer-songwriter yielded the stage to his song, Colin, for a few numbers, including the lovely Woody Guthrie-Billy Bragg collaboration, "Way Over Yonder In the Minor Key."