Austin-based singer/songwriter Joe Ely has built a devoted following through haunting, powerful albums and fierce live shows.

Austin-based singer/songwriter Joe Ely has built a devoted following through haunting, powerful albums and fierce live shows. After a stint with the Flatlanders and a live release that marked his debut on Rounder, Ely returns to the studio with another spirited effort, populated with themes of stoic survival and passion. The Zevon-esque ode to preoccupation "Fightin' for My Life," desperate "I'm on the Run Again" and pulsing, hardscrabble "All That You Need" are all fine work. "That's Why I Love You Like I Do" and "Flood on Our Hands" own a timeless, forlorn quality. The title cut is as big as Texas, and Ely is stylish and knowing on the swirling, perfectly drawn "Carnival Bum" and swinging "Twisty River Bridge." The artist's production is smart and unobtrusive, and the music leans more toward acoustic, traditional instrumentation—and not the harder-edged rock approach often seen live and on past studio efforts. Ely is in a zone here, and this is a fine addition to his already strong catalog.—RW

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print