Sunday, January 13, 2019

Jimmy Lafave - Peace Town (2018)

Too few people are aware of the late, great Jimmy Lafave, one of Austin's finest and most revered musicians. His untimely passing from a rare and aggressive form of cancer at age 61 in May 2017 was sad indeed.

While the Oklahoma native was never a household name the respect he earned within the Austin music scene was never ending. Critic Dave Marsh aired a deserved tribute to him on Sirius XM shortly before his passing and three days before Lafave died friends staged a sold out concert in his honor at the Paramount Theater in Austin. Fortunately, their honoree was able to attend.

Lafave wrote most of his own material but unlike most singer-songwriters he also recorded a lot of cover versions, many superior to the originals. More than half of the songs on his eighteenth and final album, Peace Town, a twenty song, double CD set he released last year, are covers.

A perfect example of Lafave's penchant for remaking a song is Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open The Door," a tune I never cared for mostly due to Townshend's unpleasant singing. (When I first heard it I knew why Roger Daltrey was The Who's lead singer.) Here, Lafave slowed it down and made it his own, unique work. Keyboard player, Stefano Intelisano, added some superb Hammond B3 organ.

Other great covers include a rocking take of Chuck Berry's "The Promised Land" and "Don't Go to Strangers" by J.J. Cale. The best one is Robbie Robertson's "It Makes No Difference" that is just as good as The Band's original and there are three Bob Dylan songs, which is no surprise. Lafave was a well known Dylan specialist.

On three other selections, including the title track, Lafave added his own music to lyrics written by Woody Guthrie, another one of his idols.

The set alternates between folk music, country, and rock and Lafave used his outstanding sidemen to the best of their abilities.

Lafave had a pleasing and gentle voice that was a perfect fit for his songs.

Peace Town was not initially intended to be a farewell album. Rather, its sesssions were part of a giant project in which Lafave was going to record a hundred tracks for future release. These songs are the only ones he was able to finish.

Peace Town was recorded in the last few months of Lafave's life after his unfortunate diagnosis. It's probably his final statement so his fans need to savor it now.

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