When you’re alone in your room, even when the vinyl gods conspire to delay your order, heaven beckons. Just slip on the headphones and click play on Rumer’s Live from Lafayette from the streaming service of your choice and, quite literally, feel whatever worries weighing on you slip away. For a little more than an hour, you’ll find yourself floating amongst billowy clouds endowed by her velvety vocals. (Or something like that.)
Essentially, the album is the audio half of a livestream show she performed last October, during the second U.K. lockdown, from a London club; the audio was captured by a multi-track recording rig and remixed, with some between-song patter and one tune (“Deep Summer in the Deep South”) excised due to time constraints. The set spans her career, from her classic 2010 debut, Seasons of My Soul, to last year’s outing, the countrified Nashville Tears. One might quibble with the setlist, I suppose, but all in all the songs ebb and flow the way they should, playing off one another while illuminating the human condition.
I wasn’t crazy about the country-infused album, to be honest, though I am (obvious from this blog) a fan of many country & Americana artists. While I liked certain tunes, I found others a tad too cornpone twee for my taste. Mixed amongst her own songs, however, the newer numbers display a deft charm that I missed the first time around. “Oklahoma Stray,” one of those tunes I heretofore dismissed, is a good example. It shares the tale of taking in and caring for a stray cat who, due to past run-ins with humans, refuses to be touched.
Perhaps I wasn’t in the proper headspace for it – and Nashville Tears as a whole – at the time of its release. But as someone who cared for a colony of stray cats for a spell, I now hear much of that experience in the song, though (thankfully) none died on my watch. You could always tell the cats that had bad experiences with humans, as they were forever skittish and kept their distance even when one placed food on the ground near them. Yet you – or, at least, I – couldn’t help but to try and do for them, to win them over, and to worry about them when fall faded into winter.
I’m getting off track, I suppose. Back on point: Life from Lafayette finds Rumer backed by a crack band that includes Darren Hodgson on guitar, Diego Rodriguez on bass, Alex Torjussen on drums, Barry Wickens on guitar, dobro, mandolin and violin, and – last but not least – husband Rob Shirakbari on keyboards. They provide the perfect bed for Rumer’s cushiony vocals, which reflect the many hues found in this thing called life. Her timbre vibrates through the ear canal and into the soul, just about. It’s a mostly mid-tempo outing, one that’s sure to please longtime fans while simultaneously serving as an excellent entry point for newcomers.
The older tunes, such as “Come to Me High” and “Aretha,” sound as good now as they did in 2010; and the rendition of Todd Rundgren’s “Love Is the Answer” is even better than the one found on her 2015 EP of the same name. Maybe that’s due to the odd circumstances we found ourselves in during 2020 and still find ourselves in now, when love was and is most needed. Likewise, “Better Place” – a highlight of her 2015 Into Colour set – now seems a prescient tribute to the many frontline folks who made the world a better place with their kindness and grace.
The track list: