Album Review: Jimmy LaFave, ‘Highway Angels…Full Moon Rain’

by Henry Carrigan (@henry.carrigan), Folk Alley

Folk Alley Album Review Jimmy LaFave Highway Angels Full Moon Rain

What a treat it is to have a new Jimmy LaFave album, though listening to it causes us to miss him more, inducing twinge of sadness now and then. The sadness is only momentary, though, for the album is a cause for celebration of LaFave’s artful songwriting and musical genius.

LaFave recorded Highway Angels...Full Moon Rain between December 1987 and June 1988 at Charles Hollis’ MARS (Mid Austin Recording Service), and it was released only on cassette in 1988. Newly remastered, the album demonstrates LaFave’s genius for weaving the rhythms of folk, blues, jazz, and rock around lyrics that capture the poignant ache of love and loss, the ragged edges of loneliness and the yearning for solitude, the rousing thrum of life on the road, and the restless craving of the soul to be filled with music.

The album opens with the Delta jump blues “Deep South 61 Delta Highway Blues,” a rollicking and scampering blues ramble that floats along the crystalline leads of the instrumental bridge. There may not be a more beautiful song than “Minstrel Boy Howling at the Moon,” on which Beth Galiger’s trilling flute spirals higher and higher, providing a lush foundation for Carey Kemper’s mandolin and violin and LaFave’s vocal. The song contains echoes of Van Morrison’s early albums, but it’s LaFave’s voice that evokes a desire and yearning that Morrison’s lacks. LaFave and his band rock steady along “Red Dirt Roads at Night,” a jet-fueled tribute to his native Oklahoma, while the mandolin and guitar—and LaFave’s vocals—cascade as they evoke drops of rain in the probing “Is It Still Raining.” A sonic echo of Cat Stevens’ “Where Do the Children Play?” opens the haunting “One Angel Is You,” while “Thru the Neon Night” rocks and roll along a rockabilly rhythm. The album closes with the shimmering guitars of the poignant “The Loneliness of America,” which echoes, musically and lyrically, Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee.”

Highway Angels…Full Moon Rain delivers to us a loving gift. Every song on the album is a beauty in its own way, from the propulsive folk blues of “Rt. 66 One More Time” to the haunting splendor of “The Price of Love.” The album gives us the chance to hear one of our favorite songwriters developing his considerable talents, and it allows to live in his presence just a little longer.



Highway Angels…Full Moon Rain is available now - HERE.

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