Posts Tagged ‘Live’

The Mavericks: All Night Live, Volume 1

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

mavericks_allnightlivevol1Live set leans on post-reunion material

The genre-bending Mavericks launch their own label with the release of a live album that complements the earlier It’s Now! It’s Live! and Live in Austin Texas. The new set shows how the band’s stage act has continued to grow in power, and by cherry-picking performances from their 2015 Mono Mundo tour, the set makes every song a highlight performance. Since reuniting four years ago, there have been lineup changes (including the dismissal of founding member Robert Reynolds) and new studio recordings, but it’s the stage show that has remained the group’s focal point. This generous 78-minute disc shows the core four-piece band, augmented by players on bass, sax, trumpet and accordion, to be as flexible as the Mavericks’ catalog. And rather than a nostalgic rehash of earlier glories, the band keeps their set fresh with material from 2013’s In Time and 2015’s Mono.

In fact, the sixteen tracks collected here focus almost entirely on music created since the 2012 reunion. More than half the tracks are taken from Mono and In Time, so if you’re looking for live versions of the band’s earlier hits (e.g., “What a Crying Shame,” “All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down”), you’ll need to check the previous live albums. On the one hand, you can admire their creative push, on the other, this isn’t the concert experience that fans have come to love. The new material is very good, and while it definitely augments their live set, it can’t replace history. The band plays with a lot of energy and spirit, but their verve is undercut by a recording that is distant and lacking in definition. It makes for a compelling invitation to get out and hear the band in person, but doesn’t fully reproduce the experience. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Mavericks’ Home Page

10,000 Maniacs: Playing Favorites

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

10000Maniacs_PlayingFavoritesThe latest lineup performs the band’s history

Lifelong fans of 10,000 Maniacs will be familiar with the complicated personnel changes weathered by the band since its 1981 formation. But those whose fandom only intersected the band during their late-80s commercial peak may be surprised. The band’s iconic original vocalist, Natalie Merchant, left for a solo career in 1993, and the following year Mary Ramsey was promoted from touring musician to lead vocalist. Ramsey sang lead for two albums until the death of guitarist Rob Buck put the group on hiatus, and upon their return, she was replaced by Oskar Saville. But Ramsey returned as a touring musician, and with Saville’s departure, she once again stepped into the lead singer’s spotlight. Whew.

This 2015 show, recorded in the band’s hometown of Jamestown, NY, features Ramsey leading the group through material that focusses primarily on the Natalie Merchant years, spanning 1981’s independently released Secrets of the I Ching through 1993’s MTV Unplugged, but also extends to three tracks from 1997’s Ramsey-led Love Among the Ruins. It’s hard not to miss a singer of Merchant’s indelible qualities, and while Ramsey offers nostalgic hints of the original vocals, she has her own style, and adds dimension to the band’s instrumentals with her viola. This set provides a nice addition to the earlier unplugged album and the Saville-led Live at 25, and shows the band still thriving as a live act. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

10,000 Maniacs Home Page

Greg Trooper: Live at the Rock Room

Saturday, July 11th, 2015

GregTrooper_LiveAtTheRockRoomA folk singer bares his soul

It takes Greg Trooper less than ten seconds to stop you in your tracks. Accompanied by organ, upright bass and his own guitar, Trooper has only to sing his first note to grab your attention. His voice is so open, magnetic and soulfully heartfelt, that you can’t help but listen closely. It’s one thing to craft material that draws the fandom of other gifted songwriters, but delivering it with the vocal artistry it merits is often beyond even the most talented writer. But Trooper is a superbly talented singer and storyteller, and his live performances, even in recorded form, are as intimate and honest as personal conversations. As excellent as was 2013’s Incident on Willow Street, Trooper exposes even more emotional surfaces when performing his songs in front of a live audience.

The disc’s opener “This I’d Do” endears Trooper to the audience with its extraordinary promises, and he proves himself a a man of his word with a set that’s thoughtful, stalwart and giving. He finds pathos in an alcoholic’s lament, hangs onto slim threads of hope and trudges along in heartbreak’s shadow. But as he essays in “Everything’s a Miracle,” perception is influenced by perspective, and perspective is often a choice. The search of “One Honest Man” looks forward as it creates distance from a troubled past, and “All the Way to Amsterdam” dreams of escape rather than dwelling on current circumstances. The latter rests perfectly on Chip Dolan’s keyboards and the emotional hitches in Trooper’s voice, articulating the song’s protagonist in both words and tone. The album closes with the hopeful “We’ve Still Got Time,” concluding a breathtakingly fine performance. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Greg Trooper’s Home Page

The Ronettes: Be My Baby

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

The Rolling Stones: Charlie is My Darling

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

RollingStones_CharlieIsMyDarlingThe Rolling Stones at their 1965 peak

Filmed on a two day Rolling Stones tour of Ireland in September 1965, Peter Whitehead’s fifty-minute documentary garnered only limited showings before being shelved. In 2012, ABKCO returned to the source material to restore and expand the film to sixty-five minutes, releasing it as a single DVD and a five-disc box set that included the DVD, a Blu-ray, an LP and two CDs.  The second of those CDs featured thirteen live tracks from the tour’s concerts, recorded at the peak of the Stones first incarnation. Those tracks are now being released as digital downloads, augmenting the meager selection of commercially released early live performances, such as 1964’s T.A.M.I. Show and 1965’s UK EP Got Live if You Want It.

Included among the tracks are many icons of the Stones early live set, including covers of Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” Bo Diddley’s rave-up “I’m Alright,” Hank Snow’s “I’m Moving On,” Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster,” Allen Toussaint’s “Pain in My Heart,” Bobby Troup’s “Route 66,” Jerry Ragovoy’s “Time is on My Side,” and two Jagger/Richards’ originals, “Off the Hook” and “The Last Time.” The latter was the Stones’ first hit single of 1965, but by the time of their Irish tour, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (which is included on the box set’s first CD) had already topped the U.S. chart and was just about to peak in the UK.

The mono recordings are surprisingly listenable, given the state of mobile recording in 1965. These tracks don’t have the presence or instrumental separation of live albums made a decade later, but Jagger’s vocals are seated nicely into the mix, and the guitars, bass and drums are all legible. Better yet, the screaming crowd adds electricity without often overwhelming the music. The only thing that would be better is for the live tracks from the box set’s first CD to have been added here; at only 28 minutes (and as a digital collection with no physical length limitation), there’s plenty of room. Stones fans will want to see the documentary, but will also need the audio tracks for more regular rocking. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The Rolling Stones’ Home Page
ABKCO’s home page

Various Artists: Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Various_WoodyAt100LiveAll-star 2012 tribute concert on CD and DVD

This celebration of Woody Guthrie’s one hundredth birthday is more like a family gathering than an all-star tribute. That’s because every one of these performers is an artistic descendent of Gurthrie’s music. It’s impossible to overstate Woody Guthrie’s impact on popular music, as his themes, songs, style and attitudes have transcended several generations of performers and fans; Guthrie remains a North Star by which folk-derived music is navigated. The song list includes many of Guthrie’s best-known and best-loved songs, along with archival lyrics posthumously set to music by Joel Rafael, Lucinda Williams, Jackson Browne and Tom Morello.

Staging this homage as a concert, rather than a collection of studio recordings pulled together over weeks and months, honors one of the basic tenets of Guthrie’s work: music as a shared, visceral experience. Guthrie’s songs were written for live performance, and every one of the night’s performers was fueled by both the material, the stages they’ve traversed throughout their careers, and each other. The breadth of Guthrie’s mastery is evident in material that ranges from endearing children’s songs to strident social commentary and searching introspection. The universality of his work is equally evident in the range of musical styles in which his songs are comfortably expressed, and the continuing currency of his topics.

The CD artfully edits the performances into a briskly-paced 77-minute program shorn of between-song banter; the DVD augments the program with a reading from Jeff Daniels and a short speech from Guthrie’s daughter, Nora. Both of the spoken pieces, and six of the musical selections are additions to the one-hour PBS broadcast cut. The DVD also adds several extras, including an audio track of Woody Guthrie discussing his early recordings and rare clips of him performing. This tribute concert capped a year-long celebration of Guthrie’s centennial that was filled with books, box sets and symposia, and provides a renewed opportunity to remember his empathetic genius. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Music City Roots on the Radio

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Nashville’s weekly Music City Roots weekly concert and radio program can now be heard on an expanded list of broadcast affiliates. Hosted weekly at the Loveless Barn (behind the Loveless Cafe), the two-hour show can also be streamed live every Wednesday at 7pm Central Time. Each program includes four or five artists in 20-minute segments of music and interview, and concludes with a jam session. The legendary Jim Lauderdale hosts the show with additional Music City luminaries.

Various Artists: Alive at the Deep Blues Fest

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

A selection of live two- and three-man blues

The Deep Blues Festival is a Minnesota celebration of alternative blues music, originally run from 2007 to 2010. After spin-offs in Cleveland and Ortin, WA, festival organizer (and BBQ restaurateur) Chris Johnson brought the original festival back to life at Bayport BBQ for a long weekend of shows leading into 2012’s fourth of July. Threaded through the festival were the seven acts collected here, all of whom record for the Alive label. The majority of these bands hail from the Midwest –Iowa,Indiana,Ohio and Pennsylvania – with fellow travelers Lee Bains arriving from Alabama, and Henry’s Funeral Shoe hopping over the pond from the UK. It’s a testament to Alive’s A&R department that they’ve fostered a stable of bands with similar roots but individual flavors.

At the blunter end of the spectrum are Radio Moscow, with Parker Griggs opening “Hold on Me” with stinging psychedlic wah wah atop a percussion section that takes no prisoners. Henry’s Funeral Shoe has often echoed the British blues-rock giants of the 1970s, but here they are more rough-and-ready, like the Live at Leeds-era Who. Philadelphia’s John the Conqueror is the sort of power trio you’d expect to hear in the run-down ballrooms of Almost Famous, forceful and melodic. Left Lane Cruiser sticks most closely to the classic blues progressions on “24 Hour Blues,” with Freddy J IV’s guitar a ragged, driving machine and Brenn Beck a one-man rhythm section on drums and cymbals. Mark Holder adds his harp to the band’s cover of Robert Johnson’s “Rambling on My Mind.”

More nuanced is Lee Bains III’s mix of sanctified soul and the aggressive electric aesthetic that is Alive’s hallmark. Similarly, Brian Olive’s take has the same core energy, but filled out less abrasively with keyboard, drums and bass lines that glide, roll and rumble in a powerful wall of sound. The Buffalo Killers, who often suggest James Gang-era Joe Walsh, expand on a nine-minute jam of “It’s a Shame” with harmonica player Mark Holder sitting in. It’s great to hear these bands together (even if only through the magic of editing), offering the numerous shades of two- and three-man blues that is their label’s stock-in-trade. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Alive Records’ Home Page

Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott: We’re Usually A Lot Better Than This

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Stirring live set from two Americana masters

Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott first met on a publisher’s songwriting appointment, but their musical careers have since intersected in many more organic circumstances. Their second collaboration (the first was 2000’s Real Time) finds them playing together as a live duo at the Grey Eagle in Asheville, N.C. Recorded in 2005 and 2006, the set list includes original songs (including Scott’s “Long Time Gone,” which was a hit for the Dixie Chicks) and covers of titles by Hank Williams (“House of Gold,” sung a cappella), Townes Van Zandt (“White Freightliner Blues”), Gordon Lightfoot (“Early Morning Rain”), Keith Whitley (“You Don’t Have to Move That Mountain”) and Lefty Frizzell (“Mom and Dad’s Waltz”). What makes these performances truly exciting is the unrehearsed vitality of players sharing a country music heritage and the improvisational skills of masters. The performances are fresh and surprising not just to the audience, but to the pair themselves as they build harmonies and fuel the songs with guitar and mandolin. Given how artfully the two intertwine and play off one other, it’s hard to imagine they could really be much better than this. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Tim O’Brien’s Home Page
Darrell Scott’s Home Page

Billy Joe Shaver: Live at Billy Bob’s Texas

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

There’s no shortage of live albums on Billy Joe Shaver, including well-picked gigs from the ‘80s (Live from Austin, TX) and ‘90s (Storyteller: Live at the Bluebird and Unshaven: Live at Smith’s Olde Bar), but when you’re an honest-to-God troubadour, each performance is a unique combination of people, place and songs. This two-disc (CD/DVD) document of Shaver’s September 2011 show at Billy Bob’s Texas, is just as essential as the earlier volumes. Though one could never expect Shaver to fully recover from the passing of his son Eddy, he sounds more energized – and less haunted –than he’s appeared in several years. No doubt the stage is both a reminder and a sanctuary, and he throws himself into these songs in a way younger performers couldn’t even imagine. His voice sounds great, and his band plays in a deep, empathetic pocket.

The set list holds few surprises for Shaver’s fans, but mostly because they’re so fervent about his music. Those new to Shaver’s catalog will find many of his best-known songs here, and even his most well-traveled tunes are sung with enthusiasm for words that clearly remain both important and true. The two new titles are the Johnny Cash-styled “Wacko from Waco,” recounting a 2007 shooting incident (also memorialized in Dale Watson’s “Where Do You Want It?”), and “The Git Go,” deftly casting modern ills against biblical antecedents of temptation, truth and fate. Studio versions of the new tunes are also included as bonuses. Shaver’s musical range – from delicate old-timey tunes and folk-country to stomping country-rock – would be impressive at any age, but at 72, he’s hotter than most musicians a quarter his age.

On the DVD, Shaver looks older than he sounds, though his dancing and shadow-boxing, not to mention easy smile, speak to his vitality. The rapt attention and enthusiastic response of the audience clearly add fuel to his performance. The multi-camera wide-screen video runs down the same twenty live titles as the CD but also includes stage dialog and band introductions were edited out of the music-only program. Also included on the DVD are video inserts that provide comments and stories from fellow Texans Willie Nelson and Pat Green. Shaver’s mastery as a performer continues to deepen over the years, so while earlier live sets captured the firebrand energy of younger years, this one showcases his seemingly effortless state of grace. This is a superb collection for Shaver’s longtime fans, and a good introduction for those who’ve only heard his songs covered by others. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Billy Joe Shaver’s Home Page