You always think you’re going to have enough time. Time to get all your affairs in order. Time to say proper goodbyes to those you love. Maybe even time to create something that will outlive you. Truth is, almost no one wins that deal. Jimmy LaFave tried. When the 61-year-old red dirt troubadour was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive strain of cancer in 2016, he not only continued to perform and record — he also set out to record 100 songs to leave behind in his musical legacy. He only made it to 20. But those 20, gathered together on the posthumous double album Peace Town, are worth their weight in gold. As was his way, LaFave doesn’t waste a lot of breath blowing his own horn. The set includes just three new numbers (including the ruminative title track) penned to leftover Woody Guthrie lyrics, reworkings of two more from LaFave’s rich catalogue and an untitled instrumental. The rest interpret and celebrate other artists and influences, with three Dylan numbers (including a melancholy piano take on My Back Pages) and songs by likely suspects such as J.J. Cale (a yearning version of Don’t Go to Strangers), Leon Russell (the torch ’n’ twang blues-rock of Help Me Through the Day), Robbie Robertson (a suitably soulful It Makes No Difference) and Butch Hancock (a romantically rootsy Already Gone). There are also a couple of outliers: A joyful romp through Chuck Berry‘s The Promised Land, and a winsome reinterpretation Pete Townshend‘s Let My Love Open the Door that engagingly kicks off the set. But even when he’s singing someone else’s words and melodies, LaFave never fails to make them his own — and make them count as only a man in his position could. Reminiscent of recent endgame offerings by Warren Zevon, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie, Peace Town is a poignant and powerful chronicle of an artist bowing out with grace and dignity. Make time for it.
Jimmy LaFave | Peace Town
A poignant, powerful portrait of an artist bowing out with grace and dignity.