Last night I decided that I wanted to feature Laurie Lewis’ brave and challenging new live album within my Roots Song of the Week feature. Unfortunately, I could only find one of the songs streaming online, and it wasn’t the ‘right’ one.
I was pleased today then to find that Engine 145 decided to feature a track from One Night in May, both as a streaming track and as a video. “Sailing Boat,” it turns out, was the right song.
I suggest that One Night in May, Lewis’ new live album is both brave and challenging for good reason. On this trio album- Lewis is joined by long-time collaborator Tom Rozum and electric guitarist Nina Gerber- Lewis has elected to capture songs recorded live on a single evening at Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage. (Some songs also feature harmony from the T Sisters, and one track has fiddling by Tristan Clarridge.)
Not only that, but she has chosen to build the bulk of the album around newly written songs. Therefore, few of these songs will have been heard by any but the most ardent of Lewis’ listeners. (I’ve been intently listening to Lewis for more than a dozen years, and nothing sounded familiar to me. Well, almost nothing. More on that later.) No “Who Will Watch the Home Place?” No “Tall Pines.” No “The Wood Thrush’s Song.”
This album then is a whole new listening experience, one that captures Lewis and her cohorts in a very comfortable setting. The song I’m bringing to your attention is one of the album’s most significant. “Sailing Boat” could have come from Guy Clark or Mary Chapin Carpenter. Like many of Lewis’ compositions, it uses finely hewn words to create images and a contemplative mood that remain fixed in the psyche long after the chords fade.
Beyond the quality of the production- both the sound recording and the album packaging and graphics (kudos Mr. Rozum)- what is readily apparent with this recording is that Laurie Lewis continues to peak. Her recordings stretch back some thirty years, and among them are several bona fide classics including The Oak and the Laurel, True Stories, Laurie Lewis & Her Bluegrass Pals, Skippin’ and Flyin’, and Guest House. I would suggest that we add One Night in May to that list.
What was familiar about this album? A great version of “Ring of Fire!”
Happy listening. As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald