Musta Notta Gotta Lotta, Joe Ely's fourth studio album, appeared two years after his third, Down on the Drag, and those years were eventful. Ely had been signed to MCA Records in the wake of the Outlaw movement in country, and on his first three albums he had come across as a potentially successful country artist in that vein, both because of his own songs and those of his friends Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, former bandmates in the Flatlanders. But in 1979, Ely was taken up by the Clash and opened shows for the British punk rock group in both the U.S. and U.K., leading to the release in Britain of the concert recording Live Shots in 1980. MCA U.S. held off on the disc (it was subsequently issued domestically in October 1981), but Musta Notta Gotta Lotta demonstrates the influence of Ely's new compatriots. It may also simply show that he has moved in a more aggressive direction after years of playing to as many rock as country fans. Simply put, this is much more of a rock album than a country one. Lloyd Maines' steel guitar is still listed in the credits along with Ponty Bone's accordion, but neither is much in evidence. Ely claimed Jerry Lee Lewis as his first inspiration, and that inspiration is on display right up front here in the title track, which is steeped in 1950s rockabilly. Even Gilmore's "Dallas" (first heard on the rare Flatlanders album of 1972) is given a more rocking treatment, while Hancock's "Wishin' for You," another of his excellent compositions, borrows its arrangement from the Gulf Coast style of Jimmy Buffett. The collection rocks throughout, making it a much better fit with the work of the Blasters and the Stray Cats than anything coming out of Nashville in 1981. One cautionary note must be the inclusion of several covers ("Good Rockin' Tonight," etc.) and some less-impressive-than-usual originals from Ely, even though he had two years to come up with new material this time. ~ William Ruhlmann
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