Saturday, September 08, 2018

Jimmy LaFave, Peace Town (Music Road Records, 2018); We Are Lucky To Have a Last Long Goodbye From One of Austin's Best



© 2018, Jimmy LaFave Intellectual Property Trust

"...one of America's greatest voices," Dave Marsh

Of all the compelling live music I have seen in Austin at SXSW, none was any more enjoyable than a very late night set by Jimmy LaFave.

Writing in the Austin 360, Peter Blackstock explained,
Ashley Warren, who administers the Jimmy LaFave Intellectual Property Trust on behalf of LaFave’s teenage son Jackson, noted in a press release that the sessions resulting in “Peace Town” were not initially intended to be a farewell album. Rather, they were part of an ambitious 100-song recording plan LaFave had undertaken “for future albums and projects.” The 20 songs on “Peace Town” are what got done before the rare myxofibrosarcoma cancer took his life in May 2017.
Read the complete text of the press release below.

Jimmy Lafave - Peace Town
Buy at Amazon
Buy at iTunes
Stream on Spotify

One of the qualities that Jimmy LaFave's eighteenth album Peace Town has in common with all of his others is an uncommon feel for arrangement, so much so that he makes cover versions, even familiar ones, every bit as much his own as the songs that he wrote. This talent goes hand in hand with his production skill to record music so utterly listenable that to attach a label to it would be just too limiting. Perhaps Americana would work in the sense that it incorporates the many varieties of American music (rock, folk, blues, country, gospel, jazz, R&B, etc.).

Another important ingredient in this is his choice of musicians. Long time LaFave guitarist John Inmon has been one of my favorite players ever since seeing him with LaFave ten years ago. In my summary of SXSW 2008, I mentioned that I had seen four of the best guitarists ever, and I included Inmon in that number. Even though the guitar slinger may get all the glory, the rest of the players on this record are no less than the cream of the Austin music scene.

With a little more reflection, one can not overestimate the value of LaFave's choices of what songs to cover. You can tell a lot about a person from their choice of cover material and LaFave is a perfect example. Overall, Jimmy LaFave is one of the most successful musicians I can think of. That is with success measured more as a function of the esteem he is held in by both his fellow musicians and by his audience as opposed to mega record sales.

Tracklist: Click on song title to listen

Disc One

01. Let My Love Open The Door [Pete Townshend] 4:37
Jimmy LaFave – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
John Inmon- Electric Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitars
Glenn Schuetz- Bass Guitar
Bobby Kallus- Drums
Jane Ellen Bryant- Background Vocals
Jaimee Harris- Background Vocals
Stefano Intellisano- Piano, Organ
You don't see many covers of Pete Townshend compositions. There may be a few covers of "Let My Love Open The Door", but I don't think I've ever heard one. The slightly slowed down pace really lets you get inside of this song, more than the many times I've heard the original. This version is extraordinary.

02. Minstrel Boy Howling At The Moon [Jimmy LaFave] 4:49
Jimmy LaFave– Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Glenn Schuetz- Bass Guitar
John Inmon- Lead Guitar
Bobby Kallus- Drums
Jane Ellen Bryant- Background Vocals
Jaimee Harris- Background Vocals
Stefano Intellisano- Piano, Organ
Kym Warner- Mandolin
Warren Hood- Violin
On this track, LaFave updates his own composition. “Minstrel Boy Howling at the Moon” was previously released on the album Highway Angels, Full Moon Rain, which in 1988 came out only on cassette. This splendid update frames the vocal with a violin that underscores the emotion both in the lyrics and in LaFave's voice.

03. Peace Town [words by Woody Guthrie, music by Jimmy LaFave] 5:15
Jimmy LaFave- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Baritone Guitar
Andrew Pressman- Bass
Katie Marie- Drums
Stefano Intellisano- Accordion, Rhodes
Jaimee Harris– Background Vocals
Jane Ellen Bryant- Background Vocals
The title track of this album is the first of three compositions where LaFave wrote the music for lyrics that were written by Woody Guthrie and given to him by Guthrie's daughter Nora. The songwriting combination of Woody Guthrie and Jimmy LaFave is a potent one. The music is classic LaFave with multiple guitars inviting us in as he adds just the right touch of backing vocals, accordion, etc. The gentle sound of the accordion evokes a harmonica so much so that I had to go back and re-listen.

04. What Good Am I [Bob Dylan] 4:20
Jimmy LaFave- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Andrew Pressman- Bass
Katie Marie- Drums
Stefano Intellisano- Organ
Kym Warner – Mandolin
Warren Hood- Violin
Jaimee Harris – Background Vocals
Jane Ellen Bryant- Background Vocals
Bob Dylan may have the most interpreters of any songwriter. Some artists, such as The Byrds and the Grateful Dead, make doing Dylan songs a specialty. Many consider LaFave to be the finest Dylan interpreter and I would agree. LaFave covers three Dylan songs on this album, bringing his personal total to over forty songs covered. On this gem from Dylan's Oh Mercy album (1989), the guitars bring you inside the song where you hear what sounds like an electric guitar note that becomes an organ, and just when you realize it's an organ, it becomes a violin, which then dances with the piano. It might sound like a cliche to say that an interpreter makes the song his own, but there is a reason people say that, and LaFave is the real deal.

05. Help Me Through The Day [Leon Russell] 6:54
Jimmy LaFave– Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Baritone Guitar
Glenn Schuetz- Bass Guitar
John Inmon- Lead Electric Guitar
Bobby Kallus- Drums
Stefano Intellisano- Piano, Organ
This slow blues by Leon Russell is the first of several tracks which feature songwriters from LaFave's second home state, Oklahoma. Russell's highly personal wail is inescapable in its applicability to LaFave. It's a slow blues loaded with electric guitars and some of the most intense soloing on the record.

06. I Maybe Used (But I Ain't Used Up) [Bob McDill] 4:21
Jimmy LaFave- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitars
Andrew Pressman- Bass
Katie Marie- Drums
Stefano Intellisano- Piano
"I Maybe Used (But I Ain't Used Up)" is pure country, a Waylon Jennings single from 1984 off the album Waylon and Company. It was penned by Texas songwriter Bob McDill and is a rollicking tune propelled by all those guitars. The song climaxes with a perfect old time piano solo by Stefano Intellisano.

07. My Back Pages [Bob Dylan] 6:57
Jimmy LaFave– Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar
Glenn Schuetz- Bass Guitar
John Inmon- Lead Guitar
Bobby Kallus- Drums
Jane Ellen Bryant- Background Vocals
Jaimee Harris- Background Vocals
Stefano Intellisano- Piano, Organ
Kym Warner– Mandolin
Warren Hood- Violin
This composition, best known by The Byrds, is much slower and deliberately paced in this LaFave cover. That man could really do a Dylan song. The sound is mostly defined by LaFave's voice and acoustic guitar. But, the most beautiful part of this arrangement is the piano and violin and the way that the other instruments, like the lead guitar, are woven into the mix.

08. My Oklahoma Home [Bill Cunningham, Sis Cunningham] 3:41
Jimmy LaFave- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Andrew Pressman- Bass
Katie Marie- Drums
Stefano Intellisano- Piano
Kym Warner- Mandolin
Warren Hood- Violin
This dust bowl inspired number, originally titled "My Oklahoma Home (Blowed Away)", was written by Sis Cunningham with her brother Bill. Sis lived a long life (1909 – 2004), which had many severe ups and downs. One constant throughout her life was a commitment to social and political change through music. Starting in the 1940s, she edited the folk publication Broadside, which published the songs of many folk singers, including this song which was recorded by Pete Seeger in 1961. Which was where Bruce Springsteen found it and included it in his Pete Seeger tribute album, the Seeger Sessions. This take by LaFave is pure Oklahoma roots-folk with acoustic guitar, mandolin, and fiddle.

09. A Thousand By My Side [Kelcy Warren, music by Jimmy LaFave] 4:03
Jimmy LaFave- Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Andrew Pressman- Bass
Katie Marie- Drums
Will Taylor- Lead Viola
Tony Rogers- Cello
Javier Chaparro- Violin
This LaFave original is perhaps the most emotional instrumental that you will ever hear. Part of the reason is that it was unfinished at the time of LaFave's death. Brandy McDonnell explains, writing in The Oklahoman (NewsOK),
'The “Peace Town” liner notes list the track “A Thousand by My Side” as featuring music by LaFave and lyrics by his Music Road Records co-founder Kelcy Warren. But it is actually an instrumental.

Since LaFave was unable to sing the new song in the end, Ashley Warren said viola player Will Taylor used the red dirt standout's scratch vocals to interpret "A Thousand by My Side" as a wordless homage.

“He really captured the essence, I think, of where Jimmy was going with the song," she said.'
10. Already Gone [Butch Hancock] 7:21
Jimmy LaFave- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Resonator guitar
John Inmon- Guitar
Andrew Pressman- Bass
Katie Marie- Drums
Stefano Intellisano– Piano, Organ
Jaimee Harris– Background Vocals
Jane Ellen Bryant- Background Vocals
Butch Hancock is a Texas musician and although he is a member of The Flatlanders with Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore (the three of them are also known as "the Lubbock Mafia"), he has been a solo artist and songwriter his entire career. The thrust of the song is "where can you go, when you're already gone". Lest we think of this song as a literal reflection of LaFave's frame of mind, Ashley Warren mentioned that the songs of Peace Town refer more to others, than himself.

Disc Two

01. It Makes No Difference [Robbie Robertson] 6:53
Jimmy LaFave- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Andrew Pressman- Bass
Katie Marie- Drums
Stefano Intellisano- Piano, Organ
Jaimee Harris– Background Vocals
Jane Ellen Bryant- Background Vocals
This Robbie Robertson song from The Band's 1975 album Northern Lights-Southern Cross is one of the reasons that The Band was so beloved by fans. It is such a rich song that every cover of it sounds a bit different. LaFave totally owns it here, as he does. I particularly love the solos toward the end, guitar then piano, plus the sound of piano and organ playing at the same time.

02. Don’t Go Strangers [J.J. Cale] 5:04
Jimmy LaFave– Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Glenn Schuetz- Bass Guitar
John Inmon- Lead Guitar
Bobby Kallus- Drums
Stefano Intellisano- Rhodes, Organ
You don't have to be a J. J. Cale disciple, of which there are many in the music business (including Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler), to love this cover of "Don’t Go Strangers". Cale included it in his debut album Naturally (1972). Forty five years later, LaFave recorded this delicious version with the combination of electric guitar and Rhodes electric piano sounding especially sweet; a nice subtle throwback to the seventies and a nice tribute by LaFave to another Oklahoman.

03. When The Thought Of You Catches Up With Me [David Ball] 5:30
Jimmy LaFave- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Andrew Pressman- Bass
Katie Marie- Drums
Stefano Intellisano- Piano, Organ
Brian Standefer- Cello
Songwriter David Ball's own version of "When The Thought Of You Catches Up With Me" sounds a lot like a Jimmy LaFave song. It starts with just acoustic guitar and voice, all slow and thoughtful, with a slow build. LaFave's cover is even more contemplative. Having played this in his live set for some time, it really sounds like one of LaFave's own compositions.

04. Salvation Train [Woody Guthrie, music by Jimmy LaFave] 4:06
Jimmy LaFave- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Andrew Pressman- Bass
Katie Marie- Drums
Stefano Intellisano- Organ, Wurlitzer
"It’s that same old train that brung me to this world And it’s goin’ to carry me away." Lyrically, this song is powerful on any number of levels. It is the second of three tracks that have lyrics by Woody Guthrie put to music by LaFave. Musically, it's a genius combination of composition and arrangement. The lyrics are framed by Jesse LaFave's biting electric guitar in tandem with the organ. And I just love how Stefano Intellisano uses the Wurlitzer, such a distinctive sound, along with the classic sound of the Hammond B3. Also, I should mention that Guthrie was also from Oklahoma.

05. Ramblin’ Sky [Jimmy LaFave] 5:06
Jimmy LaFave– Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Resonator Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Glenn Schuetz- Bass Guitar
John Inmon- Baritone Guitar
Bobby Kallus- Drums
Stefano Intellisano- Piano, Organ
"Ramblin’ Sky" is a LaFave original that debuted in 1997 on his album Road Novel. This update represents the perfect meld of blues and jazz, sounding as if it could be an answer to Bob Dylan's "Watching the River Flow". In addition to LaFave's vocal, the stars of this show are Inmon who rocks out with a most intense baritone guitar solo and Intellisano who shines on his piano solo.

06. Sideline Woman [Woody Guthrie, music by Jimmy LaFave] 4:31
Jimmy LaFave- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Baritone Guitar
Andrew Pressman- Bass
Katie Marie- Drums
Stefano Intellisano- Piano
"Sideline Woman" is the third of three songs which feature Woody Guthrie lyrics with music by LaFave. This straightforward guitar and piano blues uses train terminology as double entendre for lyrics which would have been considered racy if the song had come out in the first half of the twentieth century. These Guthrie lyrics and LaFave's music together sound like the work of one mind.

07. The Promised Land [Chuck Berry] 2:41
Jimmy LaFave- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Andrew Pressman- Bass
Katie Marie- Drums
Larry Wilson – Lead Guitar
This Chuck Berry classic completes a trio of songs that could arguably be considered the fun part of the album. LaFave does not slow it down and this cover can rightfully take its place beside those by the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springstein, and the others who have rocked this Berry tune.

08. You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome [Bob Dylan] 5:21
Jimmy LaFave- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Andrew Pressman- Bass
Katie Marie- Drums
Stefano Intellisano- Piano, Organ
Much has been said about LaFave's excellent Dylan covers, but this version of "You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome" may be the capper. Perhaps it's a function of timing and circumstance, but I think this version stands on its own flat out beauty regardless of the inescapable feelings of loss as concerns Jimmy LaFave.

09. Untitled [Jimmy LaFave] 4:45
Jimmy LaFave- Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Andrew Pressman- Bass
Katie Marie- Drums
Phil Hurley- Guitar solo
Stefano Intellisano- Keyboards
I love, love, love this track and I'm so glad that it is included (although it doesn't even have a name). This unfinished gem is a LaFave composition, and whether it was intended to have vocals or not is unknown, according to Ashley Warren. Phil Hurley plays the lead guitar which literally romps through this number. Melody also runs rampant here and I can just imagine all of the players having great big smiles on their faces as they played.

10. Goodbye Amsterdam [Tim Easton] 2:44
Jimmy LaFave– Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Jesse LaFave- Acoustic Guitar, Resonator Guitar
Glenn Schuetz- Bass Guitar
John Inmon- Baritone Guitar
Bobby Kallus- Drums
Stefano Intellisano- Piano, Accordion
Listening to a performance of this song by its songwriter Tim Easton, I was struck by how much it sounded like an acoustic take by LaFave. LaFave had a strong connection with his audience in the Netherlands. According to the press release:
It closes on an especially poignant note with "Goodbye Amsterdam" by folk singer-songwriter Tim Easton. "Jimmy had a very strong and loyal fan base there and in the rest of Holland where he drew devoted crowds and where the people, hospitality, and respect for him and his band was wonderful," explains Ashley Warren... "Jimmy loved Amsterdam, and they returned the love."
I must take this opportunity to mention that LaFave's core musicians, who play on most every track, are as good as it gets. In addition to LaFave's vocals and guitar, he used two rhythm sections, both of which were rock solid. Either the combination of Andrew Pressman and Katie Marie or Glenn Schuetz and Bobby Kallus ably provided the all important rhythm parts. I also want to single out the electric guitar work by Jesse LaFave and John Inmon, they are amazing players. Finally, I must say that I am blown away by the keyboards of Stefano Intellisano, whether he is playing organ, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, or especially piano. Their playing is a big factor contributing to the excellence of the album.

Overall, it must be said that based on these twenty tracks, LaFave was working at the very top of his game. Considering his medical condition, it's a blessing that Jimmy LaFave was able to leave us with this masterpiece. As an artistic statement, Peace Town has no equal.

Bonus Video: Watch LaFave's life in pictures with music in this memorial video.

The Orchard Music (on behalf of Music Road Records); UBEM, UMPG Publishing, CMRRA, and 2 Music Rights Societies

Press Release
For Immediate Release April 25, 2018

Contact: Elaine Schock or Meredith Louie
Shock Ink (818) 932-0001

Acclaimed Folk-Rocker Jimmy LaFave's Final Album
Showcases a Rich Variety of Songs

Includes Numbers from The Band, Bob Dylan, Pete Townshend,
Leon Russell, Chuck Berry & J.J. Cale
Alongside His Songwriting & Melodies He Composed
for Woody Guthrie Lyrics

(Austin, TX) Peace Town, the collection of final recordings on Music Road Records made by iconic singer, songwriter and song interpreter Jimmy LaFave, isn't what he intended as a last album. Consisting of 20 tracks he was able to record before he died from myxofibrosarcoma last May out of a target list of some 100 songs he hoped to complete, it nonetheless well represents his artistry as what famed music journalist Dave Marsh hails as "one of America's greatest voices." It will be released on July 13.

The album includes LaFave's heart-wrenching take on "It Makes No Difference," the Robbie Robertson song recorded by Americana pioneers The Band. It's one of the tracks on the set that reflect the depth and breadth of his seminal musical inspirations, including his distinctive takes on Chuck Berry's "The Promised Land" and "Let My Love Open The Door" by Pete Townshend of The Who.

Foremost among the artists LaFave admired was Woody Guthrie. He was hailed by Oklahoma Today as "a true link between Woody Guthrie and the rock tradition." He performed at the 1996 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tribute to Guthrie and at his induction the next year into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, where LaFave also spoke. He produced a touring Woody Guthrie tribute show called "Ribbon of Highway, Endless Skyway" that featured a rotating cast of fellow noted singer-songwriters, including such luminaries as Judy Collins, Jackson Browne, Odetta, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Steve Earle and Woody's son Arlo Guthrie. It was later released as an "outstanding" (Oklahoma Gazette) live double album of the same name on LaFave's Music Road label with performances by Pete Seeger, Eliza Gilkyson, Kevin Welch, Slaid Cleaves, Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, Ellis Paul and Michael Fracasso. As well, he served on the advisory board of the annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, at which he performed since its first year.

He'd been given some 20 copies of Woody's lyrics by his daughter Nora Guthrie to set to music. One of the projects he hoped to complete before passing was a full album of Guthrie material. Peace Town includes three songs LaFave composed to Guthrie lyrics: The title track, "Salvation Train" and "Sideline Woman."

LaFave's affection for other musical artists from Oklahoma - where his family moved to from Texas in his high school years and Jimmy began performing and recording - is also heard on the album in his versions of Leon Russell's "Help Me Through The Day" (best known in the version by Freddie King that Russell produced) and J.J. Cale's "Don't Go To Strangers," plus "My Oklahoma Home (It Blowed Away)" by siblings Bill and Sis Cunningham - the latter of whom co-founded the famed topical folk song journal Broadside where some of Bob Dylan's most famed protest numbers enjoyed early wide exposure.

Hailed by Folkwax as "one of the finest Dylan interpreters ever," LaFave brings his distinctive touch to "My Back Pages," "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome" and "What Good Am I?" on Peace Town. He also revisited two of his own previously recorded songs, "Minstrel Boy" and "Ramblin' Sky," bringing to them the perspective imbued by time and live performances. The set is rounded out with songs by such other writers he admired as Butch Hancock, David Ball and Bob McDill, and two instrumentals cut during the sessions.

It closes on an especially poignant note with "Goodbye Amsterdam" by folk singer-songwriter Tim Easton. "Jimmy had a very strong and loyal fan base there and in the rest of Holland where he drew devoted crowds and where the people, hospitality, and respect for him and his band was wonderful," explains Ashley Warren, who worked with LaFave on his career, label and tours and now administers the Jimmy LaFave Intellectual Property Trust "Jimmy loved Amsterdam, and they returned the love.

"I remember when he finished his Butch Hancock song ["Already Gone"], he quipped that if there's ever a Butch tribute, there's his contribution," says Warren. "He wasn't thinking about himself" as he made his last recordings, "he was thinking about other people." Yet the 20 songs he was able to record cohere seamlessly as one of La Fave's finest releases and a sweet if sad farewell gift for his fans and followers.

Jimmy LaFave's Website
Music Road Records Website