My favorite librarian is retiring. I love her because whether she is running toddler story hour or talking about her upcoming trip to New Zealand, she is a top shelf storyteller. I want to be her when I grow up. I’ve been drowning my sorrows in Jesse Lafser who is also a top shelf storyteller. Maybe she could have Miss B.’s job when she’s off exploring the world. Depending on your perspective, children’s librarian could be an underuse of Miss Lafser’s talents. (But the kids and I would love her…) Anyway, enough personal reflection. Jesse Lafser’s latest album, “Raised on the Plains” takes you on a trip through the southwestern United States. Some of it is in a car through Kansas and Missouri but then you’re on horseback wandering through Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona. You meet other travellers who ask you for directions because you look like a pro. You rest in the shadow of stone arches. You sleep under the stars with the wind rustling over red rock and sagebrush. You rarely see people, but when you do they wonder who you are and where you came from, what your story is and whether you hopped off the back of a train or were carved out of the rock itself by the wind and rain.
When you listen to this album, I recommend the first track. “Jack Hat Blues” rambles and climbs and pays a visit to a dusty town full of strangers. The line, “When I put on my hat, my name is Jack.” feels iconic to me. Cowboyish. Free. You wander into a place full of strangers and build an identity for yourself. This song includes the perfect amount of howling at the moon.
“Medicine Man” is my favorite song.
“Raised on the Plains” is as vast as the great plains while being as real as the wind whipping your hair across your sunburnt face. Lafser has a unique and raw balance of western folk sounds that are as blue as the Sea of Cortes. Her vocals are genuine, the music is simple and purposeful. Get a taste here or check out the full album here.
You should listen to this album if you like rocky landscapes, the desert, Scottish folk music, hats, cowboys, turquoise jewelry, getting your feet wet, beer, birds, flowers, and being dirty after a long day.