Last year’s premature passing of Austin singer/songwriter Jimmy LaFave was a tragedy for the music world as a whole, but Americana music in particular. LaFave’s songs were both poignant and purposeful, not only his insightful original compositions but his superb choice of covers as well. Ironically then, while the posthumously released Peace Town represents his final offering, it also serves as an excellent introduction to the uninitiated, a combination of both original material and offerings from others that retain the same style and sensibility throughout this expansive two-CD set.
The easiest references are found through material LaFave would integrate into his own repertoire, in this case, the Band’s “It Makes No Difference,” Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door,” Chuck Berry’s “The Promised Land,” Dylan’s “My Back Pages,” “What Good Am I” and “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome,” as well as songs by Butch Hancock, Tim Easton, and others. Each is an archival classic, and in LaFave’s sensitive, often subdued readings, he represents the earnest intent inherent in each. It’s little wonder then that his own songs fit so seamlessly alongside them, conveying a sense of purpose and promise that was sadly dispelled far too soon.
Ultimately then, Peace Town proves La Fave was not only a superb musical architect but a man whose deep respect for the very fiber of Americana music in its truest sense made him more than just another heart heavy troubadour. His songs brought past to present, the restless wanderings of Woody Guthrie finding a full connection to roads yet to be traveled throughout the nation’s heartland, and then too, their ultimate connection to the world as a whole. Sadly, Peace Town is the final stop on that journey, but happily, LaFave’s light won’t go out entirely. The legacy he leaves, in this album and all the others that came before, ensures that the music he made, so flush with honesty and integrity, will linger long after.