Monday, April 13, 2015

Jimmy LaFave: “The Night Tribe” (2015) CD Review

The first time I popped in The Night Tribe, the new disc from Jimmy LaFave, I was doing my taxes. I wanted some music to keep me in a good mood, keep me sane, and this album did the trick far beyond what I’d hoped. This is such a great CD, filled with mostly original material, as well as a couple of interesting covers. Jimmy LaFave’s vocals are so wonderful, so emotionally engaging, especially on the slower numbers. Listen to the way he delivers the lines “I could tell you I love you/But I cannot lie/It’s all on you/No, it’s not on me” in “It’s Not On Me.” Or “I guess I didn’t know that you would be leaving/And I keep believing/You’re going to come back again” on “Island.” And he has an excellent band backing him.

The Night Tribe opens with “The Beauty Of You,” an absolutely beautiful and sweet song. This one puts me in great spirits every time I listen to it. The first time I heard it, I immediately wanted to share it with my girlfriend, and when she got home I played it for her. She loved it too. If you’re in a relationship, play this for your loved one. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “In this world filled with wonder/As we circle round the sun/Well, every moment, it is measured/And not just the treasured ones.” LaFave’s vocals remind me of some of Brent Mydland’s work, on those sweeter love songs that Brent recorded when a member of the Grateful Dead. This track also features some wonderful work on keys. That is Radoslav Lorkovic, by the way, a musician I’ve been enjoying for years. He often plays with Ellis Paul.

Jimmy LaFave follows that track with another pretty and moving love song, “Maybe.” “Always you/Standing in my way/You’re my heart’s one desire/What can I say/Maybe I could take you home/And maybe we could fall in love/Maybe you could be my girl/That’s what I’ve been thinking of.” And is it just me, or does the chorus have a little bit of a 1980s feel? “Talk To An Angel” is another beautiful track, this one written by Kelcy Warren and Jimmy LaFave, and featuring gorgeous work on strings.

It’s not all slower numbers on this album. Check out “Trying To Get Back To You” for a little roadhouse country blues. “Just let me say this/You’re the only thing that I miss/And I’m trying my best, baby, just to get back to you.” And check out the bluesy rock tune, “Dust Bowl Okies.” “Oklahoma girls make the world turn around/Spending some time up in Tulsa town/With the ghost of Woody Guthrie/And just hanging around.” And I love that section with the lead on keys, which leads to a very cool bass solo.

One of the covers Jimmy LaFave includes on this release is Neil Young’s “Journey Through The Past,” and he does an absolutely excellent job with it. This track is actually one of my favorites on the album. It is so delightfully sad, and features more good work from Radoslav Lorkovic. The other cover is Bob Dylan’s “Queen Jane Approximately,” from his Highway 61 Revisited album. This is a really good rendition, and I especially like the backing vocals. By the end, you’re no longer comparing it to Dylan’s version. And this is, of course, not the first time that Jimmy LaFave has covered Dylan.

The album’s title track, “The Night Tribe,” is a darkly cool tune about the people who live and thrive at night. This one also features some nice work on strings. And check out these lines: “How many years ‘til the soul is torn/And how many strums ‘til the strings get worn/I’m playing all the songs that the heart prescribes/And staying out late with the night tribe.” I also like the electric guitar on this track.

The album concludes with “The Roads Of The Earth,” a song that really speaks to me, especially these days. Lately I've been thinking about the larger questions, concerning time and purpose and so on. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “In the click of a photograph/It all passes way too fast/And when your part is cast/There's no time to rehearse/May all your joy be true/That's what I wish for you/As you're traveling the roads of the earth.” What I love is the positive and friendly feel of this song. Hey, we're not alone.

CD Track List
  1. The Beauty Of You
  2. Maybe
  3. Journey Through The Past
  4. It’s Not On Me
  5. Trying To Get Back To You
  6. Talk To An Angel
  7. Queen Jane Approximately
  8. Island
  9. The Night Tribe
  10. Never Came Back To Memphis
  11. Smile
  12. Dust Bowl Okies
  13. The Roads Of The Earth 

Folks appearing on this album include Jimmy LaFave on vocals and acoustic guitar, Anthony Da Costa on electric guitar, Radoslav Lorkovic on piano and organ, Andrew Pressman on bass, Bobby Kallus on drums, Larry Wilson on electric guitar, Garrett Lebeau on electric guitar, Noelle Hampton on backing vocals, Jaimee Harris on backing vocals, Emily Shirley on backing vocals, Will Taylor on viola, Javier Chaparro on violin, James Anderson on violin, Tony Rogers on cello, Brian Standefer on cello, and Delaine Leonard on harp.

The Night Tribe is scheduled to be released on May 12, 2015 on Music Road Records.

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