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07.01.2005
Review for Live in NC by Steven Stone
For those of you unfamiliar with these players here are their thumbnail bios. Darrell Scott has written hits for the Dixie Chicks, “Long Time Gone” and “Heartbreak Town,” Travis Tritt “Great Day To Be Alive,” Sara Evans’ “Family Tree,” Garth Brooks’ “When No One’s Around,” and Patty Loveless and Brad Paisley song “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,” and 45 other artists. Scott also plays almost anything with strings and has toured with Guy Clark, Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien, and recorded with Randy Travis, Trisha Yearwood, Kate Rusby, and Steve Earle.

Danny Thompson’s acoustic stand-up bass playing was first heard in 1964 on Alexis Korner’s Blues Inc. LP. Since then he has worked with The Incredible String Band, Pentangle, Donovan, Nick Drake, Bert Jansch, Marianne Faithful, Rod Stewart, Tom Paxton, Kate Bush, Richard Thompson, Tim Buckley, and Peter Gabriel during his 43–year career. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call him one of the finest acoustic bass players the world has ever known.

Since the ‘70’s Kenny Malone has been the “A” list drummer in Nashville. Early in his career he was a favorite of country music legend, producer Owen Bradley. He can be heard on Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” and Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away.” In the 90’s his work appeared on recordings by Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Mark O’Connor, Edgar Meyer, and Alison Kraus. His ability to play with acoustic musicians, often using untraditional percussion instruments, marks Malone as unique among his peers.

Recorded on two nights during a brief tour of small clubs, Live in NC displays a rare level of spontaneous musicality. Witnessing these three virtuosos, who all listen to each other and can react instantly to each other’s musical ideas mid-tune, makes this disc a rare treat. Not only can these guys turn on a dime rhythmically, but they also create remarkably complex musical textures that seem impossible from only three players. Their version of Scott’s song “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” displays a dynamic and rhythmic range that far exceeds anything I’ve heard from studio versions. Covers of Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone” and the traditional hymn “Wayfaring Stranger” demonstrate the trio’s ability to take standard material and meld it into something special.

Along with superlative music making, Live in NC features exceptional sound. I played the disc for Paul McGowan, the CEO of PS Audio (manufacturers of high-end audio electronics), and he immediately added the disc to his list of reference recordings. Rarely have I heard a commercial recording with as wide dynamics or as detailed or articulated soundstage. Played on a good system the recording allows you to close your eyes and imagine each musician standing before you on stage.

Hauntingly beautiful and sonically stunning, Live in NC ranks among the preeminent must-have recordings of 2005.


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