|Richie Havens | Nobody Left To Crown - CD Review|
Nobody Left To Crown
If you caught I’m Not There, the 2007 Todd Haynes film that explores six sides of Bob Dylan with — what else — six different actors, you may have recognized one of the musicians during a lively front porch jam session of “Tombstone Blues.” That face belongs to none other than Richie Havens, a contemporary (and interpreter) of Dylan’s whose immortal performance at Woodstock earned him international recognition and respect. Almost 40 years later, the accolades continue to fall from the sky as Havens unveils Nobody Left To Crown, his first new album in four years.
After all these years, the man with the funky thumb-fretting style on the guitar and belly full of intensity can still deliver. That unmistakable grain of Havens’ soulful voice, swimming in a delicate stream of acoustic bisque, instills each of the record’s 13 songs with a sense of passion, integrity and hope. “The Key” and ‘Say It Isn’t So” breezily float along, luring the listener in for the kill before Havens switches gears and fires off a powerful rendition of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” The other covers here — Andy Fairweather Low’s “Standing On The Water,” Clarence Greenwood’s “Hurricane Waters,” Jackson Browne’s “Lives In The Balance” and Peter Yarrow’s “The Great Mandala (The Wheel of Life)” — could have wilted and died next to Pete Townshend’s timeless anthem, but each offers an inimitable side (not quite six, but close) of the Greenwich Village troubadour. Listen to the acoustics get a greasing from Derek Trucks’ nimble fingers on “Lives In The Balance,” and you'll get the idea.
The heart and soul of Nobody Left To Crown comes down to the title track. As someone who performed at the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton, Havens’ faith in the today’s world leaders is clearly not what it used to be. Once “(Can’t You Hear) Zeus's Angry Roar” rolls forth, you can practically hear Haven’s plea for change in the refrain. Imagining these songs in a live setting makes me want to quit my day job and follow Richie Havens around, playing before optimistic old counterculturalists, inquisitive millennials, former presidents, exiled kings, Sean Penn and the Dalai Lama. You toss these into the mix with “Freedom,” “Here Comes The Sun” and “Minstrel From Gaul,” and suddenly a ray of sunshine beams through the blinders of these strange and uncertain times. Keep it up Richie.
~ Shawn Perry