Joe Ely gave the audience exactly what they wanted, along with special guest Daphne Willis.

The first cold snap of the season could have kept people away. Being a weekday might have kept fans from attending. When talented musicians come to play, though, true aficionados get out to see them.

The beautiful Kessler Theater filled slowly, but it was a full house by the time Daphne Willis took the stage. Playing solo with only an acoustic guitar, she used her remarkable voice and penetrating lyrics to win over the crowd.

The singer/songwriter from Nashville writes songs that fit her voice, as in “Get It.” She used her vocal inflections as an extra instrument for “Take My Time.”

The Chicago-born Daphne self-admittedly ripped off Dr. Seuss in “The People That Matter.” She facetiously claimed to have written “Eleanor Rigby,” a cover she made her own with her booming voice.

“Your Girl” and “Freaks Like Me” told complete stories that kept everyone wanting to hear what happened next. “Keep On Keeping On” and a singalong version of “Ben” entertained the crowd. Willis finished with the intricately written “Done With Being Done” to a well-deserved applause from a host of new fans.

The lights came on and shortly dimmed again as Joe Ely walked out to an appreciative audience. The knowledgeable fans were tossing out requests before he even sat on his stool.

With only his electric guitar, a bottle of water, and a glass of wine, Joe launched into “Blowin Down That Old Dusty Road.” His voice is still strong, as evidenced by “Satisfied At Last.” The Texas Songwriting Hall of Famer showed why he’s a member when he played the deeply moving “Treat Me Like Saturday Night.”

Ely was now warmed up and followed that with “When The Nights Are Cold” from his latest album, Panhandle Rambler. The upbeat “All Just To Get To You” preceded a hilarious story about the only song he ever wrote in a Cracker Barrel restaurant, “You Can Bet I’m Gone.”

Joe spewed a fountain of stories from his colorful past, then strummed a delicate melody for “Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown.” He then led the dedicated audience in a singalong of the hit song “Dallas (From A DC-9 At Night).”

The requests kept coming and the crowd roared for “Road Hawg.” That led to emotional stories and music, especially when Ely talked about the late, great Guy Clark and covered one of his beautifully written songs in “Magdalene.”

Joe told of working for Ringling Brothers Circus which was the basis for “Indian Cowboy.” Another story set to music turned into another singalong with “I’m Gonna Strangle You Shorty.”

Two classic cover songs thrilled the crowd who sang with Ely. “The Road Goes On Forever” by Robert Earl Keen and Billy Joe Shaver’s “Live Forever” were traditional Texas tunes at their finest.

Showing his range, Joe played “It’s A Little Like Love,” with its deep meaning. Then came the whimsical “If I Could Teach My Chihuahua To Sing.” Its easy-to-follow lyrics turned into a crowd favorite to finish the set.

Ely quickly returned for an encore and played The Flatlander’s classic, “If You Were A Bluebird.” He finished the evening by picking something sweet sounds and singing the classically-penned, “Boxcars.” A well-deserved standing ovation ushered him off the stage.

It will be fun to watch Daphne Willis rise in the music ranks. She has the talent, skills, and desire, and only needs the proverbial breaks to reach the next level. Keep watching her website to find additional dates after the holidays.

Joe Ely is a mercurial singer/songwriter in a long line of Texas Troubadours. He writes from his heart, telling stories of life, love, and humor. His fans are loyal and often see themselves in the songs that he sings.

He’s playing single dates in Texas in the near future, so check his website for dates. See him and you’ll come away as either a new fan or a stronger fan.

A sold-out venue such as The Kessler Theater with its intimate seating and superior acoustics always makes for a better show. Special thanks to Jeff, Graham, and staff for all their help.

Joe Guzman of National Rock Review (Country) was on hand to record the event.

Joe Ely
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Daphne Willis
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Kessler Theater
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Event Date: 08-Dec-2016