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Madison Violet - Come As You Are Live

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 7 / 10 / 2013

Madison Violet - Come As You Are Live
Label: True North Records
Format: CD


Breathtaking live album from critically acclaimed Canadian folk duo, Madison Violet

This live album recorded on November 4th 2011 at the Kulturkirche in Cologne, Germany has been around on import for almost a year now and a DVD of the same gig has already been released, so most die-hard fans of the Canadian duo will be familiar with the album but it finally gets a UK release for those who missed it on import. A quick survey of those in the same building as this scribe reveals that the majority of fans prefer the studio versions of their favourite artists' work over live versions, although there are a few notable exceptions in the form of Springsteen and Dylan. After four studio albums, each one winning over new admirers to the duo’s engaging blend of country/folk/pop, and spending up to eight months a year on the road, a live album attempting to capture the magic these girls conjure up when their voices blend together was inevitable. The thing is would listening to the songs played live in your living room through your CD player actually add anything to the perfect studio renditions we already knew and loved? Strangely the few songs where the audience participates are the moments that work less well. Such is the beauty produced when Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac sing together that really any embellishments, however well intended, detract from that beauty. There are no long introductions to the songs, no in-between song banter, no background histories given to the origins of the songs from the duo (at least not on this CD), so really what we have is a brilliantly chosen best of Madison Violet albeit in a live setting. But even more strangely is the fact that many of these songs actually come alive when played on stage. The studio takes of these songs are expertly played and sung, and one wonders what the duo could possibly add to the sounds the girls produced in the studio which were perfect. But something happens when MacEachern and MacIsaac take to the stage. The playing is faultless; both girls play acoustic guitar, MacIsaac adds violin and mandolin while MacEachern supplements with Dobro, harmonica and tenor guitar, and the only other musician on the stage is bass player Adrian Lawryshyn. Not much different from the basic sound the duo creates on their studio albums then. Without taking anything away from the girls' obvious musical talents on their chosen instruments it’s those vocals that set Madison Violet apart from the rest and on this live album, while they are still perfect as on the studio albums, there is a passion that shines through that wasn’t so apparent on some of the studio versions. One of Madison Violet’s best-loved songs is ‘Small of My Heart’ from the duo’s third album, ‘No Fool for Trying’; on the album it’s an irresistible, longing, love song where the girls vocals send shivers down your spine even after you’ve heard the song for the fiftieth time. On stage there surely can’t be a dry eye left in the house by the end of the song, while the duo’s vocals are impeccable as they are on the original version this live cut carries even more emotion. It’s a breathtaking moment and worth the price of the album alone. Another song from ‘No Fool for Trying’, concerning the untimely death of MacEachern’s brother, has always been a favourite, and again this live version, which must have drawn on all MacEachern’s strength to perform with lines such as “now your father’s building you a box down in his woodshop” carries more emotion and is more affecting than the studio take. How MacEachern can get through lyrics like “all your things came home in plastic bags” on stage without breaking up is amazing. Usually live versions of your favourite songs will have you longing for the more familiar studio takes, but ‘Come As You Are’ does the opposite. For many of these songs the live versions have now become the definitive ones. ‘Come As You Are’ includes songs from all the duo’s albums; songs like ‘Haight Ashbury’ date back to their first album (issued as 'Madviolet') and the duo include five songs from their latest studio collection, ‘The Good in Goodbye’ taking in the co-write with Ron Sexsmith. It’s a testament to MacEachern and MacIsaac’s songwriting abilities that the weakest song on this live collection is a version of ‘All Apologies’. Although obviously a crowd pleaser, it just doesn’t cut it when up against all that has gone before at this gig. Finally then, a live album that beats some of the studio versions into submission. A rare treat, indeed.

Track Listing:-
1 The Ransom
2 Come As You Are
3 Never Saw The Ending
4 Fallen By The Wayside
5 Best Part Of Your Love
6 Prayed
7 Cindy Cindy
8 Haight Asbury
9 Emily
10 I'm Your Lady
11 Baby In The Black And White
12 Small Of My Heart
13 The Woodshop
14 Crying
15 If I Could Love You
16 No Fool For Trying
17 All Apologies

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The Knight Sessions (2017)
Fantastic hook-laden eighth album from Canadian duo Madison Violet which mixes new songs with reimagined acoustic versions of older tracks
The Good in Goodbye (2012)
No Fool for Trying (2009)

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