Austin roots rocker Jimmy LaFave is one busy dude.

He releases a new album May 12 called The Night Tribe, whose title looms as a tribute to "the people of the night." LaFave defines them in the liner notes as "the all-night waitress, the 24-hour truck stop attendant, the after-midnight radio host, modern-day beatniks and poets, creative, restless insomniacs up all hours of the night, searching for truth.""I tend to listen to music mainly at night," LaFave says from his home in Austin. "I'm just more of a nocturnal person. I write nearly 90 percent of my songs at night."

Many of those he composes while driving, with a tape recorder beside him. He'll climb behind the wheel again this week and head to Oak Cliff, where he's the headliner for the annual charity benefit at the Kessler hosted by Texas Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel. Opening is 26-year-old Emily Elbert, the pride of Coppell.

LaFave, 59, and Nadel have known each other for years. They met at Poor David's Pub during its Greenville Avenue heyday. In 2000, LaFave played a benefit that helped Nadel raise money for a leash-free dog park near White Rock Lake. He also arranged for LaFave to sing the national anthem at a Rangers game.

Jimmy LaFave performs on the main stage at Klyde Warren Park in Dallas on Sunday Oct. 28, 2012.

Jimmy LaFave performs on the main stage at Klyde Warren Park in Dallas on Sunday Oct. 28, 2012.

Christian Randolph/Staff Photographer

These days, LaFave shares the Austin-based Music Road Records with Dallas energy executive Kelcy Warren. LaFave and his label mates will play a free concert from 5 to 10 Friday night at Klyde Warren Park, which is named for Warren's young son. Each spring, Warren hosts the Cherokee Creek Music Festival, which benefits children's charities. This year's fest is May 14-16. LaFave will perform the last day, and Eagles great Don Henley will close the show.

Last year, LaFave performed with Henley, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett and more than 20 other artists on a Jackson Browne tribute album that he and Warren co-produced.

The Warren-LaFave partnership also extends to songwriting. They co-wrote a gorgeous ballad on the new record titled "Talk to an Angel." And they share their roots. Both were born along U.S. Highway 80, LaFave in Wills Point, Warren in White Oak, between Gladewater and Longview.

"We don't have everything in common," LaFave says of his partner, adding with a laugh, "for one, he's rich - and I'm poor."

"Talk to an Angel" fits nicely on a record brimming with soulful ballads and superb instrumentation, with keyboardist Radoslav Lorkovic doing what he does with a rare vigor. In its recent rave review of The Night Tribe, the music website No Depression writes of Lorkovic: "His tinkling of the ivories turns a very good album into a great one."

LaFave estimates he's recorded 30 Bob Dylan songs, one of which, "Queen Jane Approximately," appears on The Night Tribe. He also records his first Neil Young song, offering a moving rendition of "Journey Through the Past."

LaFave has long been adept at covers, having a rare ability to make a song his own. He first came to the attention of Dallas audiences years ago on the KERA-FM (90.1) show Lone Star Saturday Night. Host Abby Goldstein made frequent use of his cover of the Left Banke hit from 1966, "Walk Away Renée."

But that was then, and this is now. "This may be my favorite record I've ever done," LaFave says of his 17th album. "I just have a really good feeling about it. I like the songs on it a lot."

Plan Your Life

Jimmy LaFave will headline Eric Nadel's Focus on Teens benefit show at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Kessler Theater, 1230 W. Davis St., Dallas. Emily Elbert opens. Standing-room-only tickets remain, $10. 214-272-8346, thekessler.org. Music Road Records will host a free concert at Klyde Warren Park from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday.

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