A Community of Music and Musicians
The accompaniments are as intuitive and spot-on as you might imagine from a band that had worked together at forming a cohesive sound for years. Hamlin's harmonica solos, alone, bring the whole disc up a level, as do the perfectly punctuating backing vocals from the whole crew. Porter, McKeown, and Starr trade guitar licks like a trio of seasoned collaborators, but never eclipsing the guitar work Zukerman easily achieves on her own. After all, this isn't a band album - this is a crowd of people backing up one of their buddies, and doing so artfully.
Live Performance vs. Studio Album
Indeed, the music on this disc is pulled from across the realm of Zukerman's last few studio albums, not veering terribly far from the mood, melody, or spirit she achieved in each. However, on this live disc, Zukerman and her friends interject the performances with the occasional giggle, surprising each other with particularly playful performances now and then. You can hear them respond to each other's improvisational moments with grunts and cheers, as they either nail the song hard or flub a note or two in the process. Those moments could have been captured in a studio too, granted. Anytime you assemble that many friends and peers, you'll fall into surprises and impressive moments. But the added impulses in the live show bring a certain humanity - transforming the music into a conversation rather than allowing it to remain simply a document or a performance.
Before singing "Sorry Side of Town" (purchase/download) with Adrian Gonzalez, Zukerman explains to the audience: "After...traveling around with these folks, I feel like the songs become as much theirs as they are mine, because they help me flesh them out. There are certain songs...like, I don't play ['Song for Ramblin' Jack'] unless Trina's around. I just don't, because...why would you? It's just hers now."
Indeed, with that tune and all the others on this 2-disc collection, the recording quickly becomes less a re-hashing of songs for the purpose of presenting a new narrative, and instead simply about the way music changes when your friends sing along. It's a lovely live album; highly recommended whether you know Zukerman's work so far, or not. (Currently it's only available at Zukerman's website.)