Since 1998, Fordham University's public radio station WFUV has been hosting folk, rock, roots and alt.country artists in its studios for live performances of some of their best songs. As the liner notes mention, the studio has grown from a small haven for acoustic performances to a room capable of hosting a 14-member band. Their latest compilation of these performances is an exquisite two-disc set featuring the best performances from 2007, as well as a collection of favorites from the past decade.
Great Performances of Great Songs
It's the job of a radio station to compile songs in a somewhat seamless sonic and aesthetic flow, so it goes without saying that WFUV's annual compilations are well-organized. The songs fit together in a great cohesive progression. That's not easy to do, but if a radio station got that wrong, there would be cause for concern.
What's remarkable about these compilations is that WFUV has drawn so many incredible artists into their midst. In-studio performances captured here include folks like John Butler Trio, Damien Rice, Brett Dennan, Son Volt, Brandi Carlile, and several others. With little concern for stylistic definition, WFUV focuses on great songs, plain and simple. As a result, their compilations face rock artists next to folksingers and alt.country acousti-pop.
Probably most notable on the entire first disc is the presentation of The Decemberists'
15-minute "The Crane Wife 1, 2 & 3" as one continuous suite, rather than three separate songs, as presented on their CD. The piece is possibly one of the best orchestrated poetic pieces in contemporary roots music. It moves from an ethereal, smoky mood to a trotting narrative, and beyond, rooted by a slow-growing legato cello part, before the keys come in like a cause for celebration. It's a remarkable performance, and it's a testament to the value of WFUV's City Folk Live
Other bright moments include Brett Dennan's "She's Mine," Damien Rice's "9 Crimes," The Guggenheim Grotto's "Wonderful Wizard," and The Cat Empire's "Sly."
Disc Two: Best of the Decade
Where Disc One celebrates all the excellent performances the radio station has hosted over the past year, Disc Two collects the best from the past decade. Looking over the track listing, it really collects some of the best songs overall from the past ten years: Ray LaMontagne
's "Trouble," Norah Jones "Come Away With Me," Dan Bern
's "Kid's Prayer," Buddy and Julie Miller's "All My Tears," David Grey's "Babylon." There's Joan Baez
singing with Paul Pesco on "Sweet Sir Galahad."
Again, the array of music is characteristic of WFUV's playlists, and the performances are unmatchable. WFUV Music Director Rita Houston writes in the liners: "The technology changes, but it still comes down to the way music moves us."