Luke Winslow-King - The Coming Tide
Record Label: Bloodshot
Release Date: April 23, 2013
It should always be like this.
The Coming Tide is the latest from Luke Winslow-King (LWK), a 30-year-old New Orleans-based multi-instrumentalist who seems to have a firm grasp on what exactly roots music is. Classically trained and highly educated, LWK once worked as a music therapist in Manhattan, and that love for wisdom has helped him hone his craft. Originally from Michigan, the artist studied at the University of New Orleans and immediately immersed himself in the local culture. That careful study is unmistakably vibrant on The Coming Tide.
Balancing Delta blues, gospel and jazz, with a hearty dose of acoustic folk, The Coming Tide is a first-rate effort from a youngster who just might have a few Grammys up his sleeve. Whereas his last effort was just him and a stack of session musicians, The Coming Tide features the vocals and washboard of veritable newcomer Esther Rose.
As is the case with traditional roots music, The Coming Tide is not exactly lyrically sophisticated. But it what lacks in that, it makes up for in spades with the arrangements. The album comes out swinging with the title track, a hazy paean to New Orleans' coastline that practically oozes Crescent City charm. Though it does border on repetitive, it ends before the three-minute mark and segues directly into "Moving On," a jazzy waltz that is ripe for a moonlit stroll along Bourbon Street. The brassy "Let 'Em Talk," has a bit of a Justin Townes Earle swagger and that sense of effortlessness helps anchor it as one of the album's clear standouts. Breezy, easygoing and carefree, "Let 'Em Talk," could easily be the anthem of anyone who has ever felt stuck, misguided and out of place. Ditto to the freewheeling "You Don't Know Better Than Me," which also carries a good bit of JTE as well.
The album is at its best when LWK and Rose duet, playfully feeding off each other and tossing back verses with aplomb. The sweetly affecting "Staying in Town," and the broiling traditional "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning," are some of the best examples of that. The latter is important because it is one of a select few covers that dot the landscape of The Coming Tide. Roots music is deeply tied to its history and LWK seems aware of that. On Ida Cox's 1920s staple "I've Got the Blues for Rampart Street," him, Rose and the studio musicians weave together a song that feels like something one might have heard in a Magazine Street saloon in the 1950s. But that it sounds as strong and inviting as it does in 2013 is all the more reason why LWK is an act worth following.
For all its charming attributes, The Coming Tide is actually a strong endorsement of LWK's comforting and warm vocals and the tender valentine "You & Me" is a pristine example of that. The jazzy lounge cut "I Know She'll Do Right By Me," is in many ways "You & Me," revisited, at least from a lyrical standpoint. But that's where the similarities end. Meandering, slow-moving and deeply brassy, "I Know You'll Do Right By Me" is a gorgeous and enveloping valentine to the effervescency charisma of New Orleans and its enduring role as a haven for couples.
The Coming Tide closes with the Lead Belly cover "Ella Speed" and "I've Got My Mind Set On You." The former is a gently rolling gem that struts slowly and confidently before yielding to a funereal trumpet, while the latter is a howling and swampy rendition of the song that George Harrison helped bring to prominence. And it is there in those fleeting three minutes of "I Got My Mind Set On You," that Luke Winslow-King affirms why he is indeed a talent to both respect and support. Though he probably sounds better in person than on record, for now The Coming Tide is worth its salt. The album may not be your cup of team, but Luke-Winslow King is a name worth paying attention to.