The standard-issue live album usually works as a “greatest-hits” disc with some crowd noise in the background, but since Joe Ely has never been blessed with hit records in the traditional sense, for 1990’s Live at Liberty Lunch he was able to pull from the cream of his catalog rather than playing favorites, and thanks to his well-documented strength as a live performer, he was able to turn all 13 numbers into crowd-pleasers no matter how well (or little) known they were. Recorded during a two-night stand at the fabled Austin, TX venue, Live at Liberty Lunch lacks the fire and intensity of Ely’s superb 1980 concert set Live Shots, but the ten years that separate the two albums isn’t all to Live at Liberty Lunch’s disadvantage. While the earlier album may have drawn most of its songs from three of Ely’s best albums, here he’s able to rescue some superb songs that got lost in the shuffle (“Cool Rockin’ Loretta” and “She Gotta Get the Gettin'” prove there was some fine material on Hi-Res despite the wrong-headed production), and the otherwise unavailable “Drivin’ to the Poorhouse in a Limousine” is one of Ely’s best rockers. Ely’s band is in sterling form here (especially David Grissom on guitar and Davis McLarty on drums), and if the tone of this album is more mature and subdued than the raucous Live Shots, Ely is more than up to the challenge of making the songs communicate, and from the first verse of “Me and Billy the Kid,” he has the audience in the palm of his hand. In short, this preserves a truly gifted writer and performer having a great night in front of an appreciative audience in his hometown, and in this case, that’s the formula for a superior live disc.