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avatar for Luke Winslow King

Luke Winslow King

Following his critically acclaimed Bloodshot Records debut The Coming Tide in 2013, LWK (for brevity’s sake) has been as hardworking a musician as they come. Subsequent tours in the United States and overseas with his singing partner (and now wife) Esther Rose and a mutating band (including the core of upright bassist Cassidy Holden, drummer Benji Bohannon, and trumpeter/keyboardist Ben Polcer) landed the group in front of larger audiences while sharing the stage with the likes of Jack White, Pokey Lafarge, Taj Mahal, Chris Thile, and Rebirth Brass Band. Winslow-King’s second release for Bloodshot in as many years, Everlasting Arms finds inspiration in the developmental experiences of life and has LWK & Co. building upon previous creative efforts with a wider scope, exploring a sonically and stylistically panoramic songwriting vision.

It is no secret that Winslow-King is a student of the arts and an ambassador for New Orleans’s rich and colorful culture. As a teen he attended the Interlochen Center for the Arts near his hometown of Cadillac, MI. Later he studied music theory at New Orleans University and eventually received a scholarship to study music abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. Following a chance 2001 move to New Orleans after becoming stranded when his tour van was ransacked, Winslow-King’s education continued as he was schooled on the job from frequent, skin-thickening gigs on Royal Street, club performances at various spots along Frenchmen, and pick-up/recording sessions with local standouts including John Boutte, Roberto Luti, “Washboard” Chaz Leary, Little Freddy King, and George Porter, Jr. In 2013, LWK was nominated as best male performer by Offbeat Magazine, alongside Dr. John and Boutte.

His fourth full-length album Everlasting Arms carries on in balancing tradition with modernity. The title track – a re-write of A. Showalter’s original – opens with a sauntering Louisiana swing, and a warm introduction of Southern charm as Winslow-King’s sings in his velvety timber, “You can lean on me brother/ I believe you’ve carried too long.” Between Rose and LWK trading verses and lock stepping on choral harmonies, and the howl of Winslow-King’s bottleneck slide guitar, there is a casual brightness, a familiarity reminiscent of early ‘50s blues & soul 45s but with an updated pop-inflected rootsy twist.

The collection of 14 songs represents a spectrum of emotions and textures. “Swing That Thing” is a burner; it’s equal parts Delta punk rock and jivin’ city blues with a wonderfully raunchy resonator guitar tone that will have you in convulsive fits on the dance floor and Luke’s searing vibrato to knock you on your ass. “Levee Man” is what it would sound like if Cole Porter wrote a cheeky love letter for the burlesque show, complete with tantalizing trumpet, trombone and clarinet cat calls. And with its kinetic, Friday-night calypso beat, it’s easy to imagine “La Bega’s Carousel” is what Hunter S. Thompson may have heard inside the corrugated tin-roofed rum dives of Cuba.

Winslow-King balances the optimism with a spiritually heavier side in tunes like the piano-led ballad “Graveyard Blues,” with its pitch-black lyrics, “They’ll be hanging me tonight/ When the stars are lit/ And the moon shone bright/ I finally found one true way to lose/ My lowdown graveyard blues.” “Wanton Way of Loving” brings Esther Rose to the spotlight as the misunderstood country belle (“My wanton way of loving/ Now I’m bound to roam”), showing off her simultaneously steely and porcelain vocal tone, backed by a wilting, wandering violin melody.

Recorded amongst four studios – primarily at Piety Street in New Orleans, and including Jambona Lab in Italy to incorporate for the accompaniment of guitarist/mentor Luti – Everlasting Arms marks the rise of a new American songwriter and a group that sets a fresh standard for compositional range and dynamic atmospheric variety.