Favorites 1992–2001

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Sometimes it takes cream a while to rise to the top. And still, many folks have yet to discover near-legend Jimmy LaFave (even we didn’t hear until recently about the summer release of this high-quality compilation, which assembles songs from his first six albums). Oklahoman LaFave now resides in Austin, Texas, long a haven for musicians who are not inclined to follow tried-and-true Nashville formulas. Now, Texas license plates and a disregard for commercial song forms do not in themselves guarantee great music, but LaFave pole-vaults over most “roots music” artists by fully inhabiting the lyrics he sings, wrapping them in a penetrating delivery that evokes a sense of place, a sense of longing or, more commonly, both. While he rocks out with joyful abandon in praise of his musical home turf, more often here he taps into a bittersweet vein, eliciting the passing pang one might feel when looking at beloved old photographs. As a musical scrapbook for anyone who’s lived meaningfully and felt deeply, Favorites is a keeper.

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