march 2011

David LaFleur and friend: Plumbing two decades-plus of his history as a folk-blues artist and spiffing up a repertoire of tradiational and original songs alike.

David LaFleur’s Beautiful Journey

By David McGee

David LaFleur
David LaFleur

Charles Town, West Virginia’s David LaFleur says his new album, Them Bones…, represents a plumbing of his two decades-plus history as a folk-blues artist with the aim of assembling a repertoire of traditional and original songs refurbished and enhanced with the assistance of a tight, mostly acoustic ensemble of percussion, mandolin, cello, organ and piano, plus some background singers here and there. He done good. Them Bones… is one of the most refreshing traditional folk albums in recent memory and certainly one of the finest of 2011.

Without diminishing in any way the contributions of his band--check out the perfectly attuned bursts of percussion (by Antoine Sanfuentes) adding extra oomph to “Double Down or Fold,” a fresh twist on the sold-his-soul-to-the-devil bargain further strengthened by LaFleur’s anxious slide guitar swoops--LaFleur’s writing, singing and playing are so strong you might miss the supporting cast if you don’t pay attention. The traditional folk tune “Rovin’ Gambler” opens the album on a spirited note and shows how effective LaFleur’s warm tenor voice is when applied to an upbeat tune (he can sound uncannily like Rodney Crowell at times); he’s even more impressive, though, when he digs into a touching ballad, such as his own stately family remembrance, “The Quilt Song,” in which his love for days gone by and loved ones now departed is palpable and the tender moment is augmented beautifully by Camilo Perez-Mejia’s softly humming cello. The barely detectable quaver in his voice underscores the inherent sadness of the heart wrenching romantic debacle detailed in “The Last Thing,” in which the singer’s controlled anguish is reflected in the rich wall of sound erected behind LaFleur by Sanfuentes’s thundering percussion, Bill Walach’s forceful mandolin thrashing and Bill Starks's sublime, nimble piano sprints. Of all the memorable moments to treasure on Them Bones…, one above all stands out and apart from the others. LaFleur’s treatment of Robert Burns’s “My Luv Is Like a Red Red Rose” defines what love balladry is all about--Burns’s words express a love that knows no depth and defies the turning of the earth--“Till all the seas gone dry, my love, and the rocks melt with the sun/yes, I would love thee still, my dear, while the sands of life shall run”--and LaFleur’s direct, bold vocal, cushioned by his plaintive acoustic guitar arpeggios and Perez-Mujia’s warm, gently surging cello, is as persuasive in its open-hearted vows as it seems humbled by the sustained power of his endless love.

A David LaFleur sampler, including snippets of ‘Oh Freedom’ (as heard on his new album, Them Bones…), ‘Shady Grove,’ ‘Shenandoah’ and, to dulcimer accompaniment, ‘Amazing Grace’

On the traditional “Oh Freedom,” LaFleur’s expressive dobro and sturdy vocal blend in a moment of soaring spirituality; on the traditional “Darlin’ Corey,” his jittery, anxious guitar underscores the story’s tragedy as the vocal maintains a fairly even emotional keel in the telling. Add in a couple of tasty original LaFleur instrumentals--“Big Bad Bro,” an exuberant Kottke-styled romp with dark and light shadings amidst the frantic slide work; and, as the album’s sign-off, another solo guitar showcase, “Paco’s Lullabye,” alternately tender and anxious but gently, diligently, liltingly moving forward to its chiming close, a short, soft phrase that fairly whispers, “Good night, sweet dreams.” Behold a beautiful journey.

David LaFleur’s Them Bones… is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
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