POSTED ON AUGUST 21, 2013:
Return of a Favorite Son
Deep catalog of songs returns for the weekend
Although it's been a few years since Jimmy LaFave last made an appearance at All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse, don't make the mistake of thinking he's been quiet or laying low. The man has kept busy with a near-constant touring schedule and a pair of new albums (with another on the way), not to mention launching a record label.
Granted, that September show to open the fall 2009 concert season was one of the performances that has proven to be a signature of the series that has brought in a number of high profile singer/songwriters. There's something about the room -- consistently great sound and acoustics and an attentive audience -- that makes any show at All Souls special, but LaFave's appearance was one that still holds a special spot in my memory, even though I showed up late after my sons' high school performance that night.
When looking back at that show and discussing the All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse series, LaFave said, "It's really nice because All Souls has an established series -- and there are a lot of them across the country now, but they really appreciate singer/songwriters and I've been to quite a few of them. Sometimes it's a church or sometimes at a community center, but it's always nice to have someplace like that to play in between the clubs, because the people really come out to listen."
The last time LaFave played All Souls, he was two years separated from his most recent album at the time, Cimarron Manifesto. This time, he's got a new studio album, Depending on the Distance (released in 2012), to support as well as another new disc, Trail Two, which was just released a couple of weeks ago.
"I started Music Road Records with a buddy to release records for myself and Slaid Cleeves and a few others and it just took a while to get things going," he said. "There was a lot to do to get it up and running. Meanwhile, I was playing all the time and I had been working on Depending on the Distance for quite a while by the time I got it out."
Although fans are always excited by a new album by LaFave, his catalog also prompts fans to want more, and as impressive as Distance is, there's a different, special warmth to Trail Two. When asked about his decision to release another album in such short order, LaFave explained, "One of my older albums was called Trail and the idea was for it to be 'trail recordings' -- radio shows and stuff from the road. I just thought it was about time for a second volume because there are so many people out there that are tapers and have really nice digital recorders now, or sometimes the sound guy will patch directly into the mixing board. I've got hundreds of hours of good recordings now with those tapes and radio shows."
LaFave went on to reveal that he has Trail Three already prepared with an eye on releasing it as a follow-up in a couple of months.
"I think there will probably be at least six to ten volumes in the series by the time it's all said and done," he said.
Just in case you don't think LaFave is making up for lost time, he also revealed that he's currently working on another studio record as well as another project revolving around Oklahoma icon Woody Guthrie.
"I'm working on some Guthrie songs that Nora gave me to work on," he shared. "I've got about twenty unfinished songs that she gave to me that have lyrics and I'm working on music to go with them."
That involvement with the Guthrie foundation and working on completing the unfinished songs only seems appropriate in this case. Although LaFave was born in Texas and has since relocated to Austin, he grew up in Stillwater and was linked to the original Red Dirt movement, for which we will always consider LaFave one of our own.
Personally, I connect LaFave to Guthrie for one more reason: In April of 2005, when the Devils and Dust played Dallas, Bruce Springsteen opened his encore set by welcoming LaFave on stage as a guest for Guthrie's "Oklahoma Hills", in what was a highlight of the entire show.
When mentioning that show, LaFave recalled the experience and we got to discuss a few of the many people that he has had the pleasure of playing with over the years. When asked about highlights in his mind, he shared "Of course, there's Springsteen, not only for the chance to play with him, but because we got to hang out back stage for a while before the show and he just impressed me because he's a really genuine person.
"I've also gotten to be around Jackson Browne a couple of times, and that has always been cool, both because he was really nice and because I was really inspired by his writing when I started out," he shared. "I also remember one night, early on, in Harlem, hanging out with Ben Harper. I've just been really fortunate and had a lot of really cool experiences along the way."
As of late, however, LaFave enjoys mixing things up by adding some new towns, as well as old ones that he hasn't played for a while, to his tours.
"I'm really trying to work in a few new places," he shared. "Yesterday, I came in from Martha's Vineyard, which I had never played before, and I actually played Pittsburg again recently, which I hadn't been to for years.
"It's always fun, not just to see the cities, but to travel the back highways and see all of the stuff that people bypass when they fly or take the interstates now -- all of the little towns and factories," LaFave said. "It becomes a little more tiring over the years, but it's worth it to take the time and see those things."
All in all, it's not hard to associate LaFave with Guthrie, especially when you take all of those little things into account: The "trail recordings," a connection with his musical peers, yet an independent spirit, and an affinity for writing very personal and vivid songs. It should come as no surprise, then, that he will be following up his Friday night performance at All Souls with an appearance at the Woody Guthrie Center on Saturday afternoon.
"They called and wanted to know if I'd sing some songs, so of course I said yes," LaFave said. "I'll probably narrate a few of my favorite writings and sing a few Woody songs."
When discussing the Guthrie Center, LaFave expressed his appreciation of the museum, stating "Ever since it opened, it seems like there's always something going on there. I think it's great that they're trying to do some live music and give some local musicians a place to play.
"That whole area is coming to life. and it's kind of a cornerstone of the Brady District," he said. "It's cool that anyone that plays at the BOK Center can walk over and see stuff like his handwritten lyrics. It's kind of like a pilgrimage if you're a singer/songwriter, and as a musician, it blows your mind that you've got all of this history right here in front of you."
After an extended absence, Tulsa gets a pair of opportunities to see LaFave this weekend. There is still a limited number of tickets to see him Friday night, August 23, at All Souls (2952 S. Peoria Avenue), which are available for $20 at Starship, Café Cubana or online at ticketstorm.com. You can also see him pay tribute to a musical hero at when he appears at the Guthrie Center (102 E. Brady Street) on Saturday afternoon, August 24.
Admission to the Saturday performance is included in your museum entrance ($8 or free to members). Both shows are sure to include a tip of the hat to Guthrie and remind us why LaFave continues to be one of Oklahoma's favorite sons.
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If you thought that the kids returning to school would also signal the concert calendar to quiet down, you were wrong. Summer's not officially over just yet and this is one of the busiest weeks of the month. We can't cover everything here (find a detailed listing in the events calendar), but here are the Highlights to help get you started and get a glimpse of the big picture.
Thursday, August 22
The weekend kicks off early with "Boomtown 60", a fundraiser sponsored by Littlefield to benefit the Tulsa area United Way at Cain's Ballroom. Tickets are $20 in advance or $24 at the door for a show headlined by Graham Colton with Jason Savory, Swan Lake Gentlemen's Society, Loose Brix, and Whiskey Misters. If you're more comfortable at the corner of 18th & Boston, Mercury Lounge welcomes Mike & the Moonpies while The Shrine hosts Dumptruck Butterlips.
Friday, August 23
Journey returns to headline a SOLD OUT show at The Joint while Jimmy LaFave graces the All Souls stage for an intimate show and Elephant Revival brings a mix of folk, bluegrass and indie rock to The Vanguard. Meanwhile, Steve Pryor plays Mercury Lounge and New Dream City rocks The Yeti.
Saturday, August 24
It's a night of Oklahoma rock at Cain's Ballroom with Aranda, David Castro Band and Jason Ferguson. Meanwhile, Larkin brings a party to Vanguard, Mike McClure Band rocks Mercury Lounge and Funner Brothers play Shrine while Randy Crouch rules the patio at Hunt Club. It's also a packed night between Soundpony and Yeti, hosting FREAK TULSA with The Decomposed and Iron Born at Soundpony and Constant Peril, Joint Effect, Contagion 237, and more at Yeti.
Sunday, August 25
FREAK TULSA continues with Lizard Police, NoWAter, jorDAN, and more at Soundpony while Yeti hosts Spank, Manhammer, Social Genocide and more. Music starts at 5pm in both clubs. Also on Main Street, Seether headlines Cain's with 10 Years, Eye Empire, and Supermachine.
Monday, August 26
Hank III returns to Cain's Ballroom for a crazy show with Attention Deficit Domination and 3 Bar Ranch. If you're in a bluesy mood, check out Little Joe McClerran with his weekly gig at Mercury Lounge.
Tuesday, August 27
You can choose between pop and rock as Sarah Bareilles and Harper Blynn play Cain's for the pop crowd while rockers head to Vanguard for Fight or Flight (with members of Disturbed and Evans Blue) with Beware of Darkness, Mindset Evolution, and three local openers.
Wednesday, August 28
Alien Ant Farm headlines Vanguard with SocietySoicety, Summer on Titan, and The Ridgelands opening. And finally, Mercury Lounge wraps up the week with Dirty Mugs, Frank Zito & the Mannequins, and Voice of Addiction.
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