When it comes to recording and releasing new material, Jimmie Dale Gilmore is a self-proclaimed “slow poke.”
The last time the Texas country legend released any of his own original songs was on his 2000 album “One Endless Night,” and even then he only penned three of the album’s cuts. His last album, 2005’s Grammy-nominated “Come on Back,” was a tribute to his late father, Brian, and featured recordings of some of Gilmore’s and his father’s favorite songs, including cuts from Johnny Cash, The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.
Jimmie Dale Gilmore
With: Jenny Scheinman
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Caffe Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs
How much: $28, $25 (members)
More Info: 583-0022, www.caffelena.org
But fans itching for new music from Gilmore will be pleased to know that he is working on a new album, albeit at his own pace.
“I’ve been working on my own material slowly but pretty steadily,” he said during a recent phone interview from his home in Austin, Texas. “I’ve always been a perfectionist and really slow about my own songs. I just work it to death before I feel like it’s presentable.”
Not having a new record to support isn’t stopping him from playing out. His appearance at Caffe Lena at 7 p.m. Sunday will be part of a short Northeast tour that has become an annual tradition of sorts, following a weeklong songwriting class that he has taught at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck for the past 13 years.
“My manager, David Whitehead, lives in Woodstock, and since I’m already up there in upstate New York for the songwriting class, it’s a real simple thing just to go on, do a little run of several of my favorite places in the area,” Gilmore said. “It’s become, actually, one of my favorite times of year, when I get up into New England in the middle of the summer. I really love it; I’ve started to think of it as my second home.”
Along with the class at the Omega Institute, he has regularly taught songwriting in Big Sur, Calif., and in his hometown of Austin. He said his classes involve “using songwriting as a tool for self-exploration.”
Exploration has been a recurring theme for Gilmore throughout his life and musical career. He was raised in Lubbock, Texas, also home to Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings and Terry Allen.
Gilmore met his musical partners Joe Ely and Butch Hancock here, and the three formed the alternative country band The Flatlanders, which released one album in the 1970s and disbanded in 1973. The group later reformed in the 1990s, touring and releasing two new albums, with another purportedly on the way. Gilmore did not release his first solo album, “Fair and Square,” until 1988, spending most of the ’70s and ’80s in an ashram in Denver, studying with Indian guru Maharaji.
Gilmore’s combination of influences, ranging from the classic country music he grew up on to the rock ’n’ roll scene that sprang up during his teenage years, has created a sound that has attracted audiences from all walks, not just country.
“In some circles, I’m only thought of as a country singer, but that’s pretty far from the whole story,” he said. “As soon as I say a sentence, it’s obvious I’m a Texan, it’s definitely all there, but I’m also so much influenced by, well, rock ’n’ roll. I was in my early teens when rock got invented. I wasn’t one of those people who stopped loving country when rock ’n’ roll [came out].”
His distinctive sound, highlighted by his crisp tenor vocals and spacey, folk-influenced lyrics, took a while to develop.
“Before I was really well known or had a national career, I went through a lot of different phases, and one was that I sang blues a lot,” Gilmore said. “The screaming, Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Little Richard kind of stuff. I couldn’t sing like any of those guys, but I loved their music. But I sang really loud, screaming on a lot of stuff; I have that high voice that lends itself to that. I still really like that — I simply can’t physically do that.”
New, old songs
When he performs at Caffe Lena, Gilmore will include some new songs he’s been working on, along with older material. He’s been playing some songs for so long now, it’s almost as if a different person wrote them, he said.
“Sometimes I think, ‘How did I know to write that back then?’ ” The depth in some of them, I don’t know, I’m kind of surprised by,” he said. “There’s some that I go through phases of just getting a little bit tired of. Always, that one song ‘Dallas,’ most of my fans [know it]; I get a request for that song every time I play. I’ve been through phases where I didn’t want to play it, then I’ve rediscovered it.”