I recently talked withJimmy Lafave
about one of his favorite subjects, Oklahoma songwriting legendJimmy Webb
. The longer the conversation went on — and there are no short conversations with the ebullient Lafave — the more I realized what a student of songwriting Lafave is. Known among other things for his brilliant renderings of complexBob Dylan
songs like "Tangled Up In Blue,"
Lafave recorded Webb's"The Moon's a Harsh Mistress"
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album in 2001, and that version stands alongside those of Judy Collins, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, and Joan Baez as a powerful reading of what all agree is an unusually difficult song to nail.
"I'm just fascinated by Webb's work. He's such a professional, but unless you're a musician I don't think you can fully appreciate his brilliance. He has this uncanny instinctive facility when it comes to melodies."
All this is taking the long way 'round to saying that Lafave is no slouch himself. And what makes Lafave a singular talent in his own right is that he has the ability and the subtlety to nail a beautiful pop song like "Harsh Mistress" and follow it with a pedal-to-the-metal Chuck Berry rocker or one of his own soulfully blue compositions like "The Open Road." It's this range and ease that make Lafave a perennial favorite at listening rooms and festivals around the world. -- William Michael Smith
Jimmy Lafave performs on Friday, March 2, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 713-528- 5999.