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Young Texas singer-songwriter Rachel Laven is making waves in her home state, and with her winner of the Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Award last year and a finalist of the Larry Joe Taylor Showcase (2017) the now 24 year-old, 15-year veteran of the stage gains her debut album release in the UK. “Finish Line” opens the album, and I though arguably a little too polished and like other country albums it warms the listener quite nicely. With it out of the way the material becomes stronger, and the following track “Each Other’s Shoes” that was recorded in England (as was “Only Thing Familiar) she digs deep into her reserve. Impressive she is too as she performs a stunning love ballad with imperceptive ease. So well crafted are the lyrics she had me hang on to every word.   


“Do You Dare” is an infectious number with a lot of drive from the rhythm section and also has exciting fiddle (Andrew White) and superb piano (Scott Burns). “Love & Luccheses” is a more sedate affair, and with it followed by the sombre ode “Only Thing Familiar” calming qualities are strongly represented. The latter with its twin fiddles courtesy of Simon Rosellys and Andrew White plus backing vocals from Rebecca Rosellys it possesses much beauty. While the pedal steel guitar (Smith Curry) laced “The Moon” and twangy (it too contains some mighty guitar work), “Don’t Put Me In A Town” as she sings ‘don’t put me in a town with more churches than bar’, ‘don’t put me in a town where the sun don’t shine and the forecast is gloomy all the time’ the Texas songbird produces two truly outstanding numbers. Ever pressing forward, the rhythmic affair punches the air with much flair, and with Laven’s vocals possessing a familiar feel and vibrancy to one Kelly Willis both songs, and Laven are keepers!  


Sobering ballad “Something Like Heaven” has her lay bare her emotions and fears. As her and the band (Marc Sauceda, lead guitar; James Hill, B3 organ; Daniel Almodova, bass; Sean Sankey; lead acoustic guitar, drums) nail fellow singer-songwriter Walt Wilkins’ (her mentor) heart-felt ballad. When it comes to aching ballads it pours with the emotion and heartache associated with traditional country music her best performance would be hard to match never mind beat. “Someone Like You” is a little ragged and doesn't quite fit the bill. “Wrong Time” I felt was way stronger and made of stronger substance. For one it is far more meaningful. “Song For Mary” is a pleasant solo recording (Laven and her guitar)as she wraps up Love & Luccheses in caring fashion.


It is Laven’s third full-length solo album; she also has a solo EP with her bluegrass band, Sweet ‘Shine & Honey to go with three albums made with the family band, The Lavens). I can’t but help think Rachel Laven has a fantastic career ahead of her. 


                                                          Maurice Hope 

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March 2018

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