It’s been ten years since I first saw Jimmy LaFave perform live, it was at the Newport Folk Festival where he presented the ‘Ribbon of Highway, Endless Skyway’ tribute to Woody Guthrie as well as performing his own set on main stage – from that moment on I was smitten! His voice is so distinctive, full of plaintive timbres that never fail to move me.
Since that time I have been fortunate enough to see him on many occasions during visits to the States and am thrilled that he will be touring the new album, in Holland in a few month’s time. I, together with a posse of like-minded friends will be going to all five shows and very much looking forward to them.
But let’s talk about the new release – a thirteen-track album, eight are LaFave originals, three Dylan covers, a Springsteen cover and somewhat surprisingly a cover of Missing You John Waite’s hit from the 1980’s. Here’s the thing about LaFave – when he performs a cover (and he regularly peppers his live set-lists with a judicious selection of songs) he always makes the song his own. I’ve gone on record previously opining that no one does Dylan like LaFave and you only have to listen, just once, to his interpretation of Dylan’s Red River Shore to understand why I think that. Despite at 9.37 minutes long being the lengthiest track on the album LaFave’s interpretation just leaves me wanting more!
The LaFave originals mainly stay true to his style, bluesy ballads sang with such depth of feeling that even on a warm sunny day, they give you goose bumps. Red Dirt Night a roots rocker ratchets up the tempo of the album; it shows how LaFave is just at ease interweaving country with rock to create a sound that is the heartbeat of the Red Dirt music movement. Bring Back the Trains a duet with Tameca Jones has more than a touch of the spiritual about it. A Place I Have Left Behind, the final track, is a song filled with yearning.
It’s been five years since the release of LaFave’s last studio album; this one has been two years in the making and the attention to detail has been worth the wait. He draws on a stellar cast of backing musicians and uses the studio he has a part share in, to ensure that the quality of the recording is first class. LaFave’s albums have always been well received and critically acclaimed - this one won’t be bucking that trend! Jela Webb
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