By: Sarah Moore
Tour-heavy songwriter Erin McKeown has released her first live album, Lafayette (Signature Sounds Recordings). On this disc she rocks out some lighthearted swing ("Thanks for the Boogie Ride") and compresses her sound to percussive acoustic guitar backed folk ("Fast As I Can"). The album's title refers to a street in NYC where Joe's Pub, the location of the recording, resides. McKeown incites excitement and enthusiasm with her playing and band leading, as the energy of the crowd emanates. She even employs the help of the audience on "We Are More." In this way, her album conveys her stage presence and ease with performing before a live audience.
For the swing numbers, McKeown leads her star-studded ensemble, The Little Big Band, featuring keyboardist Erik Deutsch (Charlie Hunter), saxophonist Erik Lawrence (Levon Helm), righteous drummer Allison Miller (Norah Jones, Dr. Lonnie Smith), bassist Todd Sickafoose (Anais Mitchell, Trey Anastasio) and trumpeter Shane Endsley (Ravi Coltrane, Josh Roseman). The horns sound like an entire section, hence the name of the backing band. The sweet swing of "Boogie Ride" is outlined by a thick bassline and technically involves some "boogie-woogie" piano work. Later in the disc, the band approaches a funk vibe ("Blackbirds"). They slow it midway to half-time, the horns gently belting a unison phrase until the funk sets back in.
In McKeown's minimal folk numbers, she recalls Ani DiFranco's nuances. McKeown certainly chose the perfect lineup considering two of the Little Big Band members backed DiFranco. McKeown employs one or two components to accompany her guitar and vocals on these tracks, and even then the instruments are hushed. "You Were Right about Everything" proceeds with light percussion and a barely there, floating keyboard. The switching back and forth between moods on Lafayette keeps the listener engaged and perhaps likely to attend her next show.
JamBase | New York
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