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Sleepy LaBeef

I'll Never Lay My Guitar Down – 1996 (Rounder)

Reviewed by George Hauenstein

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CDs by Sleepy LaBeef

High energy, roots rock and roll and hillbilly blues have been Sleepy LaBeef's calling card for five decades. Sleepy has a voice as big as all outdoors and is truly deserving of a wider recognition than he currently possesses. Though he doesn't break a lot of new ground here, his latest will not disappoint his fans. Rather it captures the essence of his live performances.

Backed by a cracker-jack band including guitar-wiz, Duke Levine, Sleepy burns through uptempo numbers "Treat Me Like a Dog," "Hillbilly Guitar Boogie" (a medly of "I Wouldn't Lay My Guitar Down" and "Hillbilly Boogie"), "Columbus Stockade Blues" and "Sick and Tired" with such a fury that it's near impossible to keep your toes and fingers from tapping. His treatment of slower, more bluesy numbers ("You Know I Love You") is equally enjoyable. His cover of Tony Joe White's "Roosevelt and Ira Lee" is one of the best cuts on the record. The album ends on a very special note, with the gospel-tinged, "The Open Door, "written by Sleepy's 15-year old daughter, Jesse Mai.

This is a very enjoyable album. In a business where artists put out to pasture all to early, it's great to hear that Sleep[y is still making it sound as easy and as fresh as ever.