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Lafayette

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Lafayette
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Audio CD, September 25, 2007
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Product Description

Named after the address of New York's much-loved Joe's Pub, Lafayette is the acclaimed songwriter's first official live album and an on-record invitation into her other world, the stage, where she spends more than half of every year knocking 'em dead nightly. Over 13 tracks, Lafayette captures the energy and musicality of McKeown as a bandleader and entertainer extraordinaire. Lafayette is one night in the life of a performer at the peak of her powers.

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Erin McKeown's growth over the course of her five studio albums (plus a couple EPs) has been astounding. Starting as a smart songwriter drawing from pop presented with a folkish immediacy, she quickly showed herself to be much more as jazz elements entered into the picture. Not only did her singing reflect the playful push and pull of the greats, but her guitar playing became a force unto itself, as she experimented with various band sizes and lineups. Recorded at Joe's Pub in New York City, Lafayette is a live set which finds her leading her Little Big Band through a spirited tour of her catalog. Playing up to 200 shows a year, she's a comfortable and genuine presence in every regard, gracious with players and audience alike. McKeown's always worked with top-flight musicians--especially drummers, who she knows are the key to a great band, as Allison Miller proves again. --David Greenberger
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 25, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Signature Sounds
  • ASIN: B000U1ZJ50
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,631 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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I've been to about 5 Erin McKeown live shows in the last 2 years, and own all of her records. I was excited to hear about Lafayette because I LOVE her live shows, especially with Allison Miller (drummer). This album, though, fails to capture any of the energy, heart and abandon that I've come to expect from her live shows. The rhythms are very restrained here (almost frustratingly so...), and the whole show seems far too orchestrated. The keyboard sticks out like a soar thumb on most tracks. Highlights = Blackbirds, Slung-lo, Melody. Lowlights = You were right..., James, To the Stars. If you really love Erin, then of course you should buy the record, but if you're a more casual fan, I would stick to her previous albums.
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Format: Audio CD
I'm a huge fan of Ms. McKeown, and own all of her albums. I was excited beyond belief when I heard a live album was coming out, but 'Lafayette' did not live up to expectations in several key areas. She's got such amazing charisma on stage and creates stellar energy between herself and her audience, but you wouldn't know it from this album. One of her strengths on stage are the stories she tells about this or that song, and this was something I was really, really hoping to have captured on this album. No such luck. We get to hear Ms. McKeown speak twice on this record. Before 'James' she says, very quietly, "This is a song about my friend James," and once during "We Are More," she tells the audience to sing. Where's the stories? Personally, I think Ms. McKeown gives a better live show than Dar Williams, but Dar's "Out There Live" album is far and away better at capturing the energy and feel of a show than "Lafayette." If the point of a live album is to capture that feeling, what it's like to spend an hour or so in the dark in the presence of a true artist, "Lafayette" falls flat.

Second, I haven't had the chance to hear Ms. McKeown tour with horns before and I'm not sure all of the songs that get a brass-makeover on this album needed it. I believe you shouldn't do something just because you can, and that's what a couple of the tracks felt like to me - particularly "We Are More."

That being said, this album is worth buying simply for a live version of "Blackbirds," which has undergone so much change since its inclusion on Distillation that you can actually hear in this one song the artistic journey McKeown has taken between then and now. I think it's great that she keeps some of the old music in rotation, and also that she's constantly revising and updating it.
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