various artists – live & direct

this means nothing without some context. the artists are:

kurt wagner (lambchop)
bill callaghan (smog)
june of ’44
tom morgan
robyn hitchcock
joe pernice (pernice brothers)
chan marshall (cat power)
oren ambarchi

where perhaps some other compilations of seemingly unrelated artists and music might fail (cf. the trifekta sampler cited a few weeks ago), this succeeds spectacularly. it’s hard to explain how and why. the contributions are each unique and yet wholly coherent. it is explained as a project thusly:

live & direct collects some of the live recordings done for the methodology program on sydney’s 2ser-fm. where possible, we asked artists to think about doing their songs in a different way, or perform something their fans may not be familiar with. tom morgan was keen to do a session, and when he mentioned he’d been listening to willie nelson albums with just spare drums, piano and acoustic guitar, we asked him to record that way. smog’s bill callaghan played guitar through his miniature practice amp to stark effect, and the rarity of hearing lambchop’s kurt wagner on tape without a large ensemble band behind him speaks for itself. we tried to keep things mostly intimate. recording robyn hitchcock’s covers in a small kitchen on a sunny monday afternoon was an early highlight, and we actually left the room so cat power’s chan marshall could have all the intimacy she wanted. > enjoy.

every single song here stands beautifully. my main reason for getting this compo was the presence of joe pernice, massively underrated songwriter, and cat power. however, i was fully aware of bill callaghan, robyn hitchcock and oren ambarchi without actually having anything from their catalogues.

as a concept, the songs draw you into that intimacy. in spite of being recorded up to 2001, you feel as though you are in those small rooms with these musicians performing directly to you as you listen. and the photographs aligned to each artist in the booklet are striking images of australia, including the cover image of snowgums in, yes, snow (just south of where i live). maybe it’s because of these combined factors that this compilation means more to me than most others.

if you can find this release anywhere, do what you can to obtain it. i feel lucky to have it here. in fact, it’s a kind of touchstone. one i didn’t realise i had.

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