It's not often you run into a left-handed slide player, so when I saw the cover of Blue Ridge with resophonic guitar held thus I was intrigued. In fact, two assumptions were thrashed upon inspection: that LaFleur was left-handed and that this CD would center upon slide guitar. I was mostly wrong. He is right-handed (the picture was accidentally or purposefully flip-flopped), but there is slide guitar (limited to one track, a cover of Muddy Waters' I Be's Troubled). Thing is, his frantic flailing on the Muddy Waters classic is blisteringly good—so good that even slide guitar fans should hail its inclusion instead of bemoaning the lack of slide on the rest of the album. This guy can play!
Luckily, LaFleur does not limit himself to slide. He is, in fact, one of Americana's best examples of multi-instrumentalists, keying on acoustic instruments and musical styles which fit beautifully within the genre. I Be's Troubled is played beautifully well on a resophonic guitar. Old Mill Run, a LaFleur-penned instrumental in the style of the old dulcimer folk tunes of old, uses lap dulcimer to full advantage and for the rest it is the old standby acoustic guitar, but played in a variety of styles. Simply put, there is some pretty fine picking going on here.
LaFleur can write, too. Nine of the eleven tunes are LaFleur's and all are very much worth a hearing. Standouts, besides the two previously mentioned, are Mary 802, a half-spoken song about contact from the other side (but this time through the Internet); Blue Ridge, a straight folker with fine vocal harmonies courtesy of Laura First; and Sweet Joan Kerry, a fitting tribute to the lady to whom LaFleur dedicated the album.
Before I go further, be aware that this is not a solo album. A handful of good friends and excellent vocalists and musicians saddled up for it and the result was most impressive. Beautifully recorded and produced, it is a standout among the folk and Americana releases of the past year.
I must confess that I had help figuring this CD out. LaFleur included a DVD of live performances recorded, I assume, at his house. After seeing what he could do with guitar and dulcimer in such a setting, I was sold. He's a performer, my friends, and if you see his name on a bill somewhere, I heartily suggest you attend. Like I said before, this guy can play!
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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