It's been a while since Joe Ely delivered a collection of songs as good as his best material. The trio of albums from the mid-nineties, Love And Danger, Letter To Laredo, and Twistin' In The Wind, marked a step-change from Ely's early honky-tonkin' sound into something altogether more ambitious musically and lyrically, mixing rock with Spanish-Mexican roots. While subsequent albums have been of variable standard, 2007's Happy Songs From Rattlesnake Gulch being a particularly half-hearted set, Satisfied At Last is a much more rounded and consistent undertaking.
Starting strongly with 'The Highway Is My Home', and slipping effortlessly into a series of strong songs like 'Satisfied At Last' and 'You Can Bet I'm Gone', the familiar Tex-Mex sound once more underpins much of the material. As Ely himself sings, 'Not That Much Has Changed', and while no new ground is broken, he seems comfortable doing what he does best, his voice in strong shape at the age of 64. There was a time when Joe Ely's star was briefly in the ascendant in the UK following a 1979 tour with The Clash. Both Ely and Joe Strummer admired each other's music, but the mooted Mex-Punk album was never to be, and Ely has gradually slipped back into obscurity in Britain. Long-term fans will be reassured that Satisfied At Last represents something of a return to past glories.
Closing the album is the lovely 'Circumstance' written by Joe Ely's Flatlanders partner Butch Hancock. A deceptively simple tune with a lyric that muses philosophically on growing old with equanimity, and a rich, deep twangsome guitar, it is a song that indicates a man seemingly satsified with what he has achieved, and at ease with himself. It is the perfect end to a strong set of material, one of Joe Ely's many career highlights.