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Laurie Lewis

One Evening in May – 2014 (Spruce and Maple)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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CDs by Laurie Lewis

Laurie Lewis' excellent live album "One Evening in May" is a brave endeavor. On this (largely) trio album - Lewis is joined by long-time collaborator Tom Rozum and electric guitarist Nina Gerber - Lewis unconventionally elected to capture newly written songs recorded on a single evening in May 2013 at the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley, Cal. This fearless approach to music that has helped Lewis remain at the fore of string-band influenced, modern folk for three decades.

While the songs are unfamiliar, they don't remain that way for long. "Arson of the Heart" and "Garden Grow" are jumpy little numbers that allow the trio to rock out, joined on the latter by the exuberant Tietjen Sisters.

"Sailing Boat" uses finely hewn lyrical phrases to create vivid images and a contemplative mood that remain long after the chords fade. The metaphor is indeed a boat bound for the reef, but the human relationship is unambiguous.

"Barstow" is quite wonderful, a short story in song. Her personal compendium of "Kisses" balances the density of the surrounding songs, while simultaneously revealing a depth of consideration that may escape notice within clever wordplay. "En Voz Baja" and "The Crooked Miles" would not be out of place on Emmylou Harris albums of the '70s.

Mandolinist Rozum is afforded space within this recording, providing his impeccable rhythm and tone. Gerber is allowed a showcase within "Winthrop Waltz" and like Rozum, she is a gifted collaborator.

Beyond the overall quality of the production, what is readily apparent is that Laurie Lewis continues to peak. Her albums stretch back more than 30 years, and among them are several bona fide classics. "One Evening in May" will be similarly regarded.