Artist: Jimmy LaFave
Album: The Night Tribe
Label: Music Road Records
Release Date: 05/12/2015
I can fondly recall a couple of closing slots featuring Jimmy LaFave and his band at SXSW a few years back. At that time, they were not dubbed the Night Tribe but they sounded like this band, proving to be a wonderful finale to a day filled with music. There’s just an otherworldly quality to Jimmy’s vocals and he always finds musicians who are able to frame his voice perfectly. This effort finds him reunited with brilliant keyboardist and long-time cohort, Radoslav Lorkovic, who, perhaps more than any single player, consistently pushes LaFave to peak performance. This Music Road production is absolutely superb, especially given the challenge of mixing 15 musicians, several of whom are from Will Taylor’s Austin string ensemble.
Jimmy not only likes to perform late but also writes most of his songs at night, while driving. He says, “In Oklahoma, you hear the word tribe a lot because of all the different Indian tribes, and I thought, ‘What tribe of people am I part of?’ It was always the night people.”
This album is full of gorgeous, lush ballads–Jimmy’s major strength. He also sprinkles in a few trademark Oklahoma rock n’ roll shuffles like “Trying to Get Back to You” and “Dust Bowl Okies.” And yes, Jimmy, arguably the best Dylan interpreter of all, gives us a glorious, crescendo-building version of “Queen Jane Approximately” as Lorkovic’s swirling organ and percussive piano join with wailing guitars for the album’s most scintillating moments. That said, there’s plenty to explore including: his unique take on Neil Young’s “Journey Through the Past,” “The Beauty of You,” the title track and “Never Came Back to Memphis.” The Night Tribe captures Jimmy’s vocal and songwriting strengths better than any album in his storied catalog, now 17 strong.
– Jim Hynes