Jimmy LaFave - Peacetown
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Peacetown (Music Road, 2018)

Jimmy LaFave

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

Whether it's the ticking of a clock or the turning over a new calendar month, time is a precious commodity most routinely take for granted. However for anyone (or their families) battling a terminal illness, those ticks somehow sound louder. Musician and critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave is no longer with us after passing away in May 2017 from cancer.

But knowing time was fleeting, LaFave hunkered down and recorded some original songs as well as covers which seem to convey whatever thoughts he had facing the end. And it's this two-disc collection, which will leave listeners celebrating the man's timeless music yet mourning over how much he had left to give.

The choice of material LaFave puts his own spin on is impressive, particularly on the thoughtful Pete Townshend cover "Let My Love Open The Door," which rids itself of the pop sheen for a far greater heart-tugging Americana feel. It also shows LaFave was literally and figuratively pouring himself into each offering. The title track, a Woody Guthrie song, is an incredibly poignant piece of work on which LaFave sounds quite strong. The same can be said of the kickstarter to the second disc, a tender rendition of The Band's "It Makes No Difference." Another sleeper has to be found near the homestretch of the effort in David Ball's "When The Thought Of You Catches Up With Me," which is driving home the point of never forgetting the loss of a loved one.

A handful of Dylan covers also dot the record although a stark "Not Dark Yet" is avoided for "What Good Am I" and the contemplative, tear-inducing "My Back Pages." LaFave also tips his hat more than once to the aforementioned Guthrie with "Sideline Woman" and "Salvation Train."

But it's perhaps one song in particular that might have had both LaFave, his family and listeners with a sizable lump in their collective throat: "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go." If you're not misty-eyed by the close of this Dylan song given the circumstances of the recording, then there's simply something wrong.

Possibly the two closing songs off each album seems to sum up what LaFave's greatest assets were: a knack to take simple lyrics, simple melodies and make them into some kind of gold. The coda for disc one, "Already Gone" penned by Butch Hancock, slowly builds into a lovable, toe-tapping narrative. Here LaFave also seems to drive home the point of an afterlife and where he might be after this world.

Finally Tim Easton's "Goodbye Amsterdam" is a sweet coda whose lyrics about not wanting to leave just yet exemplify how brilliant LaFave was at using his art to convey love and loss.

CDs by Jimmy LaFave

Peacetown, 2018 The Night Tribe, 2015 Cimarron Manifesto, 2007 Blue Nightfall, 2005

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