Bill Monroe never paid much attention to studio recording. He believed bluegrass music was created to be played live. On her latest release, entitled simply Live, Laurie Lewis treats us to a complete performance including between-song banter. If you’ve never had a chance to hear Lewis play live, now you can!
Lewis has been touring with her current band, The Right Hands, for several years and it shows. They have that “tight yet loose” feel that only comes after hours of playing together. Band members include her longtime collaborator Tom Rozum on mandolin, mandola, and vocals, Scott Huffman on guitar and vocals, Craig Smith on banjo and vocals, and Todd Phillips on bass and vocals. Every member of the band has the opportunity to take the spotlight. Rozum’s lead vocals on Si Kahn’s “Just a Lie” and his swing mando chops on Irving Berlin’s “Without My Walkin’ Stick” are particularly noteworthy. Scott Huffman’s down-home tenor vocals shine on the Billy Joe Shaver song “I’m Going To Live Forever.” And of course, Lewis serves up a large helping of her fiddle and vocals. She includes a number of original tunes including “Val’s Cabin,” “Love Chooses You,” and “Texas Bluebonnets.”
Recorded at three venues in Oregon and Washington by veteran engineer Fred Forssell, Live has all the clarity and dynamism of a studio recording but with that special spark that only happens during a live performance. Especially pleasing is that the crowd is mixed down so its noise never intrudes. Sure, it’s nice to know paying customers had a good time, but I want to hear the music! Listening to this, folks at home will have almost as much fun as the crowd at the show.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.