The week after Thanksgiving is never a pleasant one. It means back to work or back to school for most folks. It means leaving the comfort of family and the delights of copious amounts of food. I found myself dragging quite a bit these last two days, but then miraculously, not one but two much-needed miracles landed in my lap. Or in my ears. Or something.
I’ll preface this very briefly by saying this: I love live recordings. I love session recordings of music that’s already been released. I especially like when these are done not only well, but fantastically well. These recordings give you an insight not only into how the band sounds when they come out of the studio, but also what songs sound like after a band or artist has had the opportunity to sit with them for a year or two or four and let them gently evolve.
The two “miracles” that were released this week are, as far as I’m concerned, two of the best releases of the year.
The first is the iTunes session release from The Head and the Heart. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love this band, and this release does not disappoint. It combines new recordings of some of their best songs (Rivers and Roads, Down in the Valley) with alternate versions of tracks from their debut album, as well as a pair of new releases. All of it is phenomenal, and a must have for fans of The Head and the Heart. If you aren’t already a fan – I suggest you buy their debut album, soak in all of its delights, then purchase this iTunes session and appreciate it in its entirety. For your convenience, I’ll even include the link to both their debut album and the new iTunes session!
The second album, which arrived today, is one of the most astonishing live albums to be released this year. Joe Pug, one of the most entrancing young singer/songwriters around right now, released a live album recorded in Chicago at Lincoln Hall in April. It spans the majority of his discography, with the added bonus of an incredible cover (Tex Thomas) and a wonderful guest appearance (by Strand of Oaks). The most amazing part of this album is the opportunity to listen to live, intimate performances of tracks that Pug has had in his repertoire for 4 or 5 years now, I believe. Hymn 101, Nation of Heat, and Hymn 35 are all performed with such care, such deep commitment, and such understanding that I found myself in tears driving home in the dark. Yeah, that beautiful. Also, whoever recorded this did a phenomenal job, as it is one of the best live recordings I’ve heard in years. If you don’t know who Joe Pug is, or you just haven;t had a chance to hear this album yet – take a trip over to his website (www.joepugmusic.com) and check it out. Oh, did I mention this 17 track live album is only $5? Yeah, head on over and pick it up – you absolutely won’t be disappointed.
I hope these take you through the post-Thanksgiving doldrums and lead you happily to the rest of the holiday season!