Taking a Listen
reviews of local & state music CDs
LAMBCHOP — Live at XX Merge
Sometimes music fans just have to let intuition guide them in pursuit of undiscovered aural passions. Whether or not you’ve heard the music of Nashville pseudo-underground darling Lambchop (www.myspace.com/lambchopisaband), that intuition should begin with their recent live release Live at XX Merge. Recorded at the Cat’s Cradle in July of 2009 in celebration of beloved indie label Merge Records, those who were there speak of this particular performance in hushed tones, as the hipster element often does of course. If there isn’t already an air of mystery around a band whose American dates occur only slightly less often than Halley’s Comet, the grab bag format of XX Merge left fans stabbing at which of the five nights Lambchop would appear. It arrived that Friday, July 24 and not enough can be said about the energy that permeates every facet of this set, as the genuine outpouring from the Cradle’s packed house is almost as joyous to behold as the band itself. The love is reciprocal, as Kurt Wagner’s amorphous blend of classic country and soul sounds as vital and uncompromising as ever. With his typical small army on stage, Wagner and his band ooze poignant sentiment on “I Will Drive Slowly” to open the show, but his own delicate rumble paired with the provocative horn and wind ensemble swiftly dictate the spirit of the evening. With such a broad range of influence in Wagner’s catalog, it’s no surprise that the show weaves it way through hints of brownstone indie (“The New Cobweb Summer”) and quirky lounge (“National Talk Like A Pirate Day”). It always finds itself back at its roots, with sultry soul (“What Else Could It Be?”) dominating the set’s direction. It all builds up to an emotional and incendiary conclusion with the mercurial “Give It,” a track that truly encapsulates the Lambchop magic like no other. It’s not found on any of the band’s studio albums, yet hear it performed live and you’ll understand exactly why this band inspires such a devout following. In leads in tenderly with Wagner ruminating about the change of the seasons over sharply pronounced piano phrasing. “Yeah, fall makes me a little sad sometimes/ you whoop out the sweater and a second later it’s time for a change,” he says, just as guitarist William Tyler comes in with a ringing guitar hook that reflects the song’s own season-like procession. The momentum builds until it almost feels as if the room is ready to explode, as Wagner intersperses memorable lines from the Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime.” If the set wasn’t already a must-own, it also includes a download of the concert’s high-quality film, itself an instant classic in its own right.
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