Although born in Wills Point, Texas, roots singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave is more closely associated with Stillwater, Oklahoma, the place where he honed his pleasing mixture of folk, country and rock. LaFave calls what he does "red dirt music" and throughout his fine new effort, Cimarron Manifesto, he presents an earthy sentimentality that honors that description.
LaFave's been releasing records for almost 20 years, but Cimarron presents a songwriter and interpreter who has mastered his influences instead of simply being beholden to them. Dylan has always been an inspiration for LaFave, but "Not Dark Yet" is done not as a tribute to a legendary songwriter, but as an exploration of the tune's possibilities. The same goes for Donovan's "Catch the Wind," a sappy dose of '60s schmaltziness that LaFave successfully turns into a modern ballad. Equally as effective are originals such as "Car Outside" and "Hideaway Girl," songs that find LaFave sounding like the male version of Lucinda Williams.
Where older releases felt constricted, Cimarron breathes with the feelings of a man content with his talents, a man unafraid to sing and play deceptively simple songs. Featuring solid but unobtrusive folk/rock accompaniment, the dozen songs of Cimarron Manifesto play out like a well-written drama, a tribute to Texas, Oklahoma and the weathered souls that inhabit both places.
Jimmy LaFave performs Friday, May 11, at the Granada Theater.
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