By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


July 5, 2005

Jimmy LaFave
"Blue Nightfall"
Red House Records

Bohemian cowboy Jimmy LaFave has gone deep for his seventh studio CD, turning down the amps and producing a record of profound beauty.

LaFave has always written sharp tales of America, much of it seen through the windshield of a car roaring down a heartland highway. In "Blue Nightfall," the Austin, Texas, resident and new father explores more on foot.

Piano and acoustic guitar, with electric guitar, fiddle and accordion flavoring, are the norm on most of the 12 tracks, all but one written by LaFave and sung in his aching, expressive tenor; think of Vince Gill with a million rough edges.

"You've been hiding out in my mind," LaFave sings in "Sweet Sweet Love," and he touts the healing power of taking a walk down a "River Road."

The title song, "Blue Nightfall," is almost excruciating in its short cry of loss, but "Shining Through" exults in the redemptive power of love. "I Wish for You" ("a life better than mine/baby I'm trying all the time") is a love song to LaFave's new child.

It's not all downtempo. In "Music From the Motor Court," LaFave, guitarist Gurf Morlix and pianist Bryan Peterson romp through all of the places you're likely to hear music floating on the breeze. A "this land is your land" reference salutes Woody Guthrie, in whose honor LaFave organized the recent "The Ribbon of Highway -- Endless Skyway" tour.

LaFave pays tribute to Jack Kerouac and the Beat writers in "Bohemian Cowboy Blues," and in "Gotta Ramble," he climbs back behind the wheel, where he's "halfway through tomorrow/you're just leaving yesterday."

It's that kind of eloquent, economical writing that makes "Blue Nightfall" such a winner.