9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2007
A classically trained musician, Garth Hudson brought his formidable skills and creativity to the world of rock as The Band's keyboard virtuoso, wind player, and arranger. In Live At The Wolf, Garth, on acoustic piano, and his wife, Maud, on voice, show how dazzlingly far their musical horizons now extend. Garth has said that his recent keyboard playing is better than any he did with The Band. His improvisations, showcased here in three original piano pieces and his elegant song accompaniments, seamlessly combine jazz, roots, blues, and classical elements. In "International Medley," Garth adds patriotic tunes to this mix, and in "Concert Hora," he enriches his palette still further by performing a klezmer-like, Romanian folk dance melody on accordion. Amid all these diverse influences, one also senses in Garth's playing rock's sublime essence. Maud Hudson is a singer of flair, passion and wit, who beautifully synchronizes her rich and expressive voice with her husband's most ethereal phrasings. Together, the Hudsons have fashioned a new musical language that incorporates, yet stands apart from, all of the styles they explore.
Garth and Maud use this new language to make each of the album's song selections uniquely their own, from the early gospel "Stand By Me," to the sorrowful jazz standard "Willow Weep For Me," to the rock and roll classic, "Young Blood." They transform the lament for lost love "It Makes No Difference" into a heartfelt ode of remembrance for The Band's Rick Danko, the song's original vocalist. On Garth's impressionistic "Beyond the Breakers" (words by Eric Andersen), they wonderfully blend word and tone images of wind, water, color, and light. "The Weight" attains a sacred dimension when Garth prefaces this Band favorite with a 16th century hymn. Maud's blues original, "You'll Be Thinkin'," packs buoyancy and verve. Her performance of Bob Dylan's "Blind Willie McTell" is stunning, as she speaks, sings, and whispers its words to summon ghosts of Southern slavery. Shining throughout every song are Garth and Maud's consummate artistry, gentleness of spirit, and love of music.
Live At the Wolf commemorates two significant dates. The September 2002 concert that it records was the first at London, Ontario's new Wolf Performance Hall, and also marks the beginning of the Hudsons' career as a performing duo. The CD's 2005 release celebrates Garth and Maud's 25th wedding anniversary.
This album is delightful and inexhaustible. You will never get tired of listening to it. In its understated way, it makes musical history.