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Luke Winslow-King

Everlasting Arms – 2014 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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CDs by Luke Winslow-King

Much like the way the Creole people of Southern Louisiana brought together a wide variety of flavors, ingredients and spices to create gumbo, which is now the signature dish of New Orleans cuisine, singer/songwriter Luke Winslow-King has borrowed from many of the Americana music traditions closely associated with The Crescent City to produce an album that immediately transports listeners to the French Quarter.

From gospel to jazz to acoustic Delta blues to ragtime, the sounds of New Orleans permeate every nook and cranny of the14 tracks, producing a collection of contemporary songs with a vintage flare.

The eclectic mix of New Orleans-inspired sounds by itself would be enough to make this interesting, but the sequencing adds to the delight. The album kicks off with the title track, a liberal reworking of the 1887 hymn "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms" by Anthony J. Showalter. This simple tune, which features supporting vocals by Esther Rose King, Winslow-King's wife and musical collaborator, is immediately followed by the much more intense and blues-inspired "Swing That Thing," which in turn transitions to the snappy acoustic "I'm Your Levee Man," a song made whole by some well-placed ragtime horn accompaniment.

The opening quartet of songs is completed by the somber "Graveyard Blues," a dark tale that finds the protagonist finally shaking the blues thanks to the intervention of the hangman's rope. This song immediately brings to mind the late-night piano ballads from Tom Waits' early recordings. These opening four songs showcase Winslow-King's mastery of the many varied musical styles associated with New Orleans and set the stage for the an album that thrives on diversity.

Other notable numbers include the ebullient jazz send-up of "La Bega's Carousel," the blues rock of "Domino Sugar," the album's most contemporary sounding song, and "Wanton Way Of Loving," the best showcase of Esther Rose's vocal prowess on this collection.

Ultimately, Winslow-King has created a New Orleans love letter with "Everlasting Arms" - one that showcases the breadth of the city's rich musical heritage without ever feeling gimmicky.