In recent years, one of the annual rites of winter has been a tour featuring four of the best roots music songwriters going Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt and Guy Clark sharing a single stage while they swap songs and stories.
From the sound of things, the artists enjoy the shows as much as the audiences.
"It works out really good," Ely says. "We don't have any flame-throwers or naked dancing girls and stuff. It's just four guitars and four microphones. It's easy traveling. People find it real interesting because of our kind of different approaches [to songwriting] and because it's so incredibly stripped down that there's really nothing to hide behind."
Ely joins the tour ahead of releasing two CDs of new recordings of songs he had written, but never released, during his 30-year career. Happy Songs from Rattlesnake Gulch (Feb. 6) collects rocking material from the mid-1980s to the present, while Silver City: Pearls from the Vault, Vol. 1 (March 6) features acoustic versions of some of Ely's earliest songs.
A few of those songs might be played on tour with Lovett, Hiatt and Clark. And while the song choices undoubtedly will change from night to night, Ely knows he'll be inspired by the tour.
"I really look forward to it, because at the end of the run, I head straight to the studio and start working on new songs," Ely says. "I realize that I've got a lot of work to do to catch up with those other guys. It just gives me a whole new angle to write from."
Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Joe Ely and Guy Clark
Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
Thursday, Feb. 8, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $49.50-$65; visit ticketswest.com.