There are music scenes, and then there’s Texas, a musical world unto itself in many ways. Where else could under appreciated troubadours like Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, and Jimmy LaFave earn a modest but steady living and amass a solid fan base, all without leaving their home state very often?
LaFave is usually considered to be on the folk side of the Texas songwriter crowd, but this album is more of a rocking, full-band affair. Of the band members, Larry Wilson on guitars, lap steel, and Dobro stands out, as does the fine keyboard work of David Webb.
LaFave’s interpretive skills are legendary, and the choice of material here is wide-ranging. His reputation as a singer of Bob Dylan songs is extended with a beautifully arranged, “Emotionally Yours”, but he tackles several other sources this time out. His take on Gretchen Peters’ “On a Bus to St. Cloud”, and the closing track, Jimmy Webb’s classic, “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress”, both expand upon the originals, rendering them with the kind of emotional investment that only LaFave is capable of.
With a quavering voice, a strained tenor over a melancholy piano figure, LaFave can impart more feeling into the words he sings than a thousand chart-topping crooners. For proof, check out the upbeat version of John Phillips’ hippie anthem, “San Francisco”, a dated song that LaFave nonetheless manages to pull off convincingly in an arrangement that makes him sound like Bono from U2.
LaFave is a songwriter as well as a gifted singer, though that side of his creative output tends to get overlooked in all the attention to his cover choices. “Never is a Moment,” is a mellow tune worthy of a Jimmy Webb comparison for its intricate wordplay that expresses a simple concept. The jauntier side of LaFave surfaces on a song like, “Love Can Find Its Own Way,” that sounds like a lost John Hiatt tune. Overall, this is a fine set of rocking folk tunes from a singer and songwriter who deserves to be well known far beyond his home turf of Texas and Oklahoma.
// Notes from the Road
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