What We're Reading: Joe Ely's "Bonfire of Roadmaps"!


To this writer, the mark of a truly great book isn't how many copies it sells in its first week of release, or how many celebrities are quoted on the dust cover saying nice things about the person who wrote it, but how many times over the next several days, months, and years you find yourself revisiting the book.

After all, a good book you will read once, but a great book you will find yourself coming back to time and time again.  Based on this criteria, Joe Ely's "Bonfire of Roadmaps" would most certainly qualify as a great book.  Joe Ely, of course, is a country singer who has shared stages with the likes of The Clash and Bob Dylan over the course of a career that now spans five decades.  As one can imagine, five decades on the road can fill any man with enough stories to fill a book, but very few ever stop to write down such stories before they are lost to the ethers.

Ely, on the other hand, has taken to passing the soul-sucking boredom of life on the road (aka the glamorous life of a musician) by jotting down the thoughts and images that cross his mind as the miles race by.  "Bonfire Of Roadmaps" sees Ely waxing poetic, literally, on a variety of subjects and the end result is an engaging man who is not just a great American musical treasure, but the kind of guy who could make a day spent on the front porch seem like heaven.

Released in 2007, "Bonfire Of The Roadmaps" is just as readable seven years later, if not more so, as many of his ruminations pack an even more potent punch than they did then.  After all, this isn't a book by one of those rock stars who gets recognized everywhere they go and has their every need attended to by an assistant, roadie, or manager, this is a man who still does his own laundry and lives in the same world as you and I.  For that reason alone, Ely's prose comes at you straight, with no chaser, and shines joy and light on life in these United States, both as a musician and as an American.



Of course, Ely's journey will bring him back to the Chicago area for a return visit to Evanston's SPACE on June 5.  Ely will be joined by guitarist Jeff Plankenhorn.  Tickets are $22 - $42 and are available HERE.


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