Jimmy LaFave and Night Tribe (UK Tour – September 19th & 20th 2013)
Jimmy LaFave and Night Tribe, The 100 Club (London, UK September 19th 2013)
“The good news is we received some requests, the bad news is that we will be here for three more days” said Jimmy LaFave to his band, during his return to the 100 Club in London. It is some twelve years since he last played here and from the slew of song requests people had written down on pieces of paper and placed on stage, it was clear that this was a much-anticipated show.
LaFave accompanied by Phil Hurley (guitar), Bobby Kallus (drums) and Glenn Schuetz (bass) played two sets in his own inimitable style. His voice has been described as ‘one of America’s greatest’ and he is just as comfortable singing tender love songs, as he is rootsy rockers. Tonight he ran the full gamut including not only his self-penned material but also a collection of cover songs, paying tribute to (amongst others) Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Jackson Browne and the recently departed J. J. Cale. From Cale’s body of work, he chose Magnolia and unusually for LaFave switched from his acoustic guitar to a borrowed baritone guitar whose lower tones suited the ‘feel’ of the song so well.
One of the requests LaFave honoured early on was from an American friend at whose parties he has played back in Houston. The friend’s wife’s favourite song is Bad, Bad Girl and tonight it featured some stellar guitar work by Hurley who received an ovation during the song for his playing. LaFave has a generous spirit and readily allows others to bask in the limelight.
To coincide with this tour (which initially took in a run of dates in Holland) LaFave has released a couple of follow-ups to 1999’s TRAIL namely TRAIL TWO and TRAIL THREE. All feature a series of live (bootleg) recordings captured over the years. Drawing in particular from TRAIL TWO for tonight’s set list ensued a brisk trade in sales of the albums after the performance.
I’ve seen LaFave play live many times over the past decade but rarely have I heard him talk so much between songs. Whether gently teasing his band mates, telling jokes or recounting stories, he was completely at ease in this venue whose stage has been graced by the cream of British music – Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, Peter Green etc. etc.
After years of persuasion from fans and promoters alike, it was wonderful to see LaFave play on my ‘home turf’. Friends who had come out to the show on personal recommendation enjoyed it immensely (told you so!). The show’s promoter summed the evening up perfectly when he said ‘it was one of the best night’s of music I’ve experienced in a long, long time.’
Jimmy LaFave and Night Tribe, Tingewick (Village Hall, UK. September 20th 2013)
I first saw Jimmy LaFave play live, a decade ago, in Rhode Island when he was touring the Woody Guthrie tribute ‘Ribbon of Highway, Endless Skyway’. It was opening night of the Newport Folk Festival and as a memento of that occasion I bought a poster hoping to get it signed by the ensemble of performers. I managed to secure just three signatures – Bob Childers, Jeff Plankenhorn and Johnny Irion.
The following day, LaFave opened up the festival main stage. I’d listened to an album or two but actually seeing him play just took my breath away. There is an immediacy and a rawness to live performance that just can’t be replicated in a studio recording. Since then, on my regular travels to the USA I have seen him many times and last November flew to Holland for shows on five consecutive nights. This year LaFave not only played Holland but also included three dates in the UK in his schedule – years of asking (not just by me but other fans and British promoters) had finally paid off!!!
Promoters Cosmic American Music arranged this show as well as one in Nottingham the following night. Aficionados of ‘Red Dirt Music’ regard LaFave as one of the pioneers of the genre; it combines country with rock and roll although LaFave does at times give it his own twist by drawing from the folk cannon. His own writing is influenced by the Dust Bowl Troubadour, Woody Guthrie and LaFave is working on an album of songs where he’s composed the music to Guthrie’s words – look out for that at some future date.
He’s also known as one of the best interpreters of Bob Dylan’s work and will inevitably include a few choice covers in live shows and on albums. Kicking off tonight with Dylan’s Buckets of Rain, it wasn’t long before he tested out his guitarist Phil Hurley by choosing to play Pledging My Time which Hurley hadn’t played before! Glenn Schuetz on electric stand up five string bass and Bobby Kallus on drums (though not a tom-tom!) completed the Night Tribe line up.
For over two hours LaFave sang, joked, told funny stories, teased his band and put them on the spot by for example telling a story about being on the judging panel for the New Folk Awards at Kerrville Folk Festival with Butch Hancock and then saying “Let’s do a Butch Hancock song” and seguing into If You Were A Bluebird. It is one of my favourite Butch songs; no make that one of my all time favourite songs! Just beautiful.
Last year’s studio album DEPENDING ON THE DISTANCE was in my Top 10 of 2012 but only one song from it Clear Blue Sky featured in the set list. Preferring to concentrate on classics from his back catalogue (Only One Angel, Never Is a Moment, River Road) and add to the mix some well-chosen covers (including Gretchen Peters’ Revival, Chuck Berry’s Bye Bye Johnny, Jackson Browne’s These Days) LaFave had the audience ‘eating out of his hand’. His expressive voice always captures the essence of a song regardless of whether it is or isn’t one that he’s written himself. A case in point was a request received before the show for Walk Away Renée which was a smash hit for The Four Tops back in the late 1960’s. He makes it his own.
Such was the appreciation of the audience that he and the band came back for two encores. A tribute to J.J. Cale Tulsa Time and then closing out with Dylan’s Not Dark Yet.
Oh – that poster I mentioned, it has now got a fourth signature – Jimmy LaFave. Jela Webb