Artie Traum

South of Lafayette

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Back in the '60s -- when a young Artie Traum was building his résumé on the New York City folk scene -- baby boomers had a saying: never trust anyone over 30. But from a musical standpoint, one of the problems with that assertion (apart from the fact that it was just plain ageist) is the fact that some musicians get better and better as they grow older. Traum is a perfect example. The Bronx-born singer/songwriter was in his late fifties when he recorded South of Lafayette in 2002, and he is very much on top of his game throughout this excellent album -- which is best described as folk-rock with frequent jazz overtones. Not all of the songs on this 45-minute CD are jazz-influenced, but many of them are -- and Traum's appreciation of jazz is a major asset on memorable offerings like "The Ballad of Frankie O," "The Map," the cynical "In Paris," and the haunting title track. Musically, "Memorial Day 1959" isn't as jazz-influenced as the abovementioned songs, but lyrically, it employs a lot of jazz imagery. Looking back on life in New York City in 1959 (the year Traum turned 16), Traum fondly recalls a time when John Coltrane and Symphony Sid were cultural icons in his home town. "Memorial Day 1959" is a good example of why Traum's age is a plus on South of Lafayette; Traum's many experiences and many years of living give him a lot to write about. It should be noted that not everything on this album is jazz-influenced; "Mockingbird," "Hills of Sicily," and "Niagara" aren't jazz-influenced either musically or lyrically, and they are great songs. South of Lafayette is an impressively consistent outing from this veteran folk-rocker.

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