Flyinshoes Review

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            Montreal-based songwriter Rob Lutes has been playing with guitarist Rob MacDonald for over a decade now, time enough to develop the wonderful interplay between acoustic (Rob L) and resophonic (Rob M) guitars evidenced on this recording. In that time, Rob Lutes has released several solo albums which have built him a solid reputation as a songwriter; though he has an oblique way with words that makes his songs not so immediate as some, his tendency to wordplay, to unexpected references and to little bombs of profound understanding gives his song legs, as they slowly unfold their meanings to the listener. He deals in serious subject matter, in the complexities of life, the need for humans to connect with each other, the value of a constant love and the occasional struggle to escape the blues. His singing is husky and impassioned in a low-key close-to-the-mic kind of way, and you can hear that he's a bluesman at heart.

            There are four covers mixed in with the ten Lutes originals: Ain't Nobody's Business sees the guys picking away, their fingers dancing briskly on the strings; Rob M's style is more fluid than Rob L's but they play as a team so tightly that it's hard to tell who's doing what at times. This turns out to be as light hearted as the Robs get on this album; Sleepy John Estes' song, Drop Down Baby, features some gorgeous picking with Rob M's break in the middle sounding positively exuberant and gloriously loose-limbed; otherwise it's Rob Lute's introspective, impassioned blues vocal that holds the focus. Phone Call From Leavenworth is the third cover, written by Chris Whitley who is a new name to me. The real curveball comes with the fourth cover, The Bee Gees' To Love Somebody. Pure pop in the company of all these un-commercially minded songs seems quite odd, but it certainly works. I've certainly always had a soft spot for the song, one of those magic moments when pop  music actually touches on something real and the Robs have clearly felt the truth it holds, too.

            There's pretty much an hour of music on this album; as a concert performance in an intimate setting such as the one where this was recorded, that's fine. As a cd to pull off the shelf it possibly feels a little long, though that's probably not true for established fans.  Suffice to say that the appearance of Jozy Fever and Claire Hayek on backing vocals, during the song Interstate, seems to add a new dimension altogether.  Generally, though, I get the feeling  that Rob Lute's growl is the sound of boulders rumbling along the stream bed, whilst Rob MacDonald's sweet style is the sound of the bubbles and spume dancing on the surface. Can't have one without the other.

 

John Davy

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Year 2016

1
Levi Parham
90 pts.
These American Blues
Music Road Records
GC,JBO,TK
2
Martha Fields
86 pts.
Southern White Lies
Independent
BP,BH,FB,JAB,RW,SP
3
Carter Sampson
75 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
AN,CRS,JB
4
Anna Elizabeth Laube
65 pts.
Tree
Ahh...Pockets! Records
DH,NC
5
Michael McDermott
60 pts.
Willow Springs
Pauper Sky Records
BK,MM
6
Shovels & Rope
54 pts.
Little Seeds
New West
 
7
Robert Ellis
53 pts.
Robert Ellis
New West Records
DHO
8
Sturgill Simpson
52 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
JJ,JF
9
Douglas Greer
50 pts.
Baja Louisiana
Zilker Park Records
HDB,ML
10
Lucinda Williams
46 pts.
The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Highway 20 Records
EM
11
Buddy Miller & Friends
44 pts.
Cayamo Sessions at Sea
New West Records
 
12
Wink Burcham
43 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
 
13
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
42 pts.
C&O Canal
Red Beet Records
BR
14
Brent Cobb
41 pts.
Shine On A Rainy Day
Elektra Records
HH
 
Daniel Romano
41 pts.
Mosey
New West
CVL
 
Leonard Cohen
41 pts.
You Want it Darker
Sony Music
HO
17
Christian Kjellvander
40 pts.
A Village: Natural Light
Tapete Records
BM
18
Drive-By Truckers
39 pts.
American Band
ATO Records
AR,EZ
19
Birds of Chicago
38 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
LM,SZ
20
John Prine
37 pts.
For Better, or Worse
Oh Boy Records
FS,MB
21
The Cactus Blossoms
36 pts.
You’re Dreaming
Red House Records
GS,HD
22
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
You Can’t Go Back
Décor Records
FCE
23
Gillian Welch
34 pts.
Boots No.1: The Official Revival Bootleg
Acony Records
LK,PR,TJ
24
Sarah Jarosz
33 pts.
Undercurrent
Sugar Hill
RM
25
Joe Purdy
32 pts.
Who Will Be Next?
Mudtown Crier Records
AL
 
The Devil Makes Three
32 pts.
Redemption & Ruin
New West

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