South of Lafayette
Artie Traum's elegantly crafted acoustic folk-jazz is still in evidence on his latest effort, South of Lafayette (Roaring Stream), a story cycle chronicling the bittersweet journeys and regrets of various characters. Traum sings as well as plays, with a sparse tenor conveying appropriate world-weariness on the bluesy, open swing of "In Paris," and on the poignant, dark-chorded "Hills of Sicily" he croons "Hold these dreams for me/'cause I'm drowning/and I can't see the future anymore" to lonely cello and guitar strains. As always, Traum's effortless-sounding guitar touch and detailed fretwork is at the core of these tales, whether it's the winking, strutting ode to summer humidity "Yankee Swamp," the gentle, folksy sparkle of "South of Lafayette" or the intricate, intimate web of acoustics on "The Ballad of Frankie O," depicting the regret of an "invisible man." Traum's ensemble, led by pianist David Sancious and bassist Tony Levin, provides equally resonant, sterling support. The only real oddity is the occasional, inappropriately hot background vocals that appear here and there to break the spell of lonely romantic tunes like "Niagra" and "The Map."