JIMMY LaFAVE – Peace Town (Music Road Records MRR CD030)

Peace TownA leading light of the Red Dirt country movement, LaFave succumbed to cancer last year, but not before laying down a 100 or so recordings over a three-day period. Twenty of them form Peace Town,  a double set worth of material. Both covers and three self-penned numbers, all recorded live and mostly first and only takes with very little by way of overdubs and reworkings.

It opens in unlikely form with his slowed down country strummed and organ accompanied take of Pete Townshend’s ‘Let My Love Open The Door’ proceeding to the first original with the soulful ‘Minstrel Boy Howling At The Moon’ followed by the swayalong title track, his setting of words by Woody Guthrie. It’s one of three, the others, over on the other disc, being the bluesy, organ-backed ‘Salvation Train’ and ‘Sideline Woman’.

Of the other LaFave credits, ‘Untitled’ and ‘A Thousand By My Side’ are both instrumentals while ‘Ramblin’ Sky’ is a mortality-themed Dylan-ish barrelhouse blues. Dylan himself gets three credits, a reflective ‘What Good Am I?’ a near seven-minute world-weary slow, piano-backed version of ‘My Back Pages’ and a no less melancholic ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go’ that take on an added resonance given that he was dying at the time.

There’s also a Dylan link opening Disc 2 with a soulful hurt-infused cover of Robbie Robertson’s ‘It Makes No Difference’, while other iconic names come with a late night bluesy interpretation of Leon Russell’s ‘Help Me Through The Day’, JJ Cale’s ‘Don’t Go To Strangers’, a jangly acoustic ‘Already Gone’ by Butch Hancock and, showing he could still rock it up despite his windpipe being pushed over, a romp through Chuck Berry’s ‘Promised Land’.

Elsewhere, lesser known titles and credits come with an equally rock ‘n’ rolling groove through Bob McDill’s singularly appropriate country boogie ‘I May Be Used (But I Ain’t Used Up)’, David Ball’s wistful strings-backed ballad ‘When The Thought Of You Catches Up With Me’, Bill Cunningham’s jaunty hillbilly stomp ‘My Oklahoma Home (It Blowed Away)’ and, closing everything on a lyrically poignant, but musically upbeat note of farewell, Tim Easton’s ‘Goodbye Amsterdam’. “I didn’t want to leave just yet”, he sings here, but, as his nephew, Jesse, points out, knowing he was going to go, he was going to go out on a high. Mission accomplished, Jimmy.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: https://redhouserecords.com/artists/jimmy-lafave/

‘When The Thought Of You Catches Up With Me’ – live: