I was hoping one of my local music reviewer compadres was going to write this review so that I could bury my snotty reaction down in the comments. No such luck.
There's no question in my mind that Erin Mckeown's one of the most talented, fun and interesting funky folk musicians out there. I loved her first two Signature Sounds albums (Distillation and Grand), I thought most of We Will Become Like Birds pretty good, and I still listen to her pre-big label early works. I consider myself a fan. But the new live album, Lafayette, and her previous album of covers, Sing You Sinners, have me worried.
Is that all there is?
For me, the joy of discovering any new musician is that you get to then chart their career, and follow them as they grow and (hopefully) improve. Each new album ought to be a revelation as you get to hear the choices made and the new directions the artist is following. It a major joy of mine to learn new tunes from a musician I love.
So what gives with Ms. Mckeown's choice to start acting like a fading super-group only three albums in, by returning to her roots with an album of tin-pan alley covers (Sing You Sinners) and then producing a live album (Lafayette)? I fear next on her agenda must be a Christmas album, a greatest hits retrospective box set (with some rare, unreleased trax), and then an album of others covering the Mckeown catalog. What I want is some new material.
To be fair, "Lafayette" rocks. The musicians are all top-notch, and the renditions of her previous work are never tired or obvious. She has made good songs better and somewhat more interesting. But I'd be amazed if I ever listened to it again.
I'll wait patiently for when she bucks her current trend and produces a straight-up album of new songs, and if it's half as good as her earlier stuff, it'll be tremendous.
-- Mark Roessler