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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November 2017

JW Roy & The Royal Family
80 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
Chris Hillman
79 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Turnpike Troubadours
46 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton
36 pts.
Wildflower Blues
Cinquefoil Records
Eilen Jewell
34 pts.
Down Hearted Blues
Signature Sounds
Lucinda Williams
31 pts.
This Sweet Old World
Highway 20/Thirty Tigers
JD McPherson
29 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
Mark Martyre
26 pts.
Tom Russell
26 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
Anna Tivel
25 pts.
Small Believer
Fluff And Gravy Records
Margo Price
25 pts.
All American Made
Third Man Records
Fred Wickham
22 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
Joe Henry
22 pts.
Ear Music
Whitney Rose
22 pts.
Rule 62
Six Shooter/Thirty Tigers
Dick LeMasters
18 pts.
Incompatible Things
Longneck Road Music
Jim White
18 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
Peter Gallway
18 pts.
Feels Like Religion
Gallway Bay Music
Thomm Jutz
17 pts.
Crazy If You Let It
Mountain Fever Records
Kris Delmhorst
16 pts.
The Wild
Blue Blade Records
Daniel Crabtree
15 pts.
In The Shadow Of His Wings
Jeremy Pinnell
15 pts.
Ties Of Blood And Affection
Sofaburn Records
Julien Baker
15 pts.
Turn Out The Lights
Amber Cross
14 pts.
Savage on the Downhill
Chris Blevins
14 pts.
Better than Alone
Horton Records
David Rawlings
14 pts.
Poor David's Almanack
Acony Records
Grainne Duffy
14 pts.
Where I Belong
Jeff Crosby
14 pts.
Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records

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