Sometimes bands do this too soon in their careers and others use it as a last resort to stay relevant. But, with few exceptions, the finest ones are the collections that capture the zeitgiest of the scene and are a snapshot of a band at the peak of their musical prowess.
With Brewster Street Live, Bart Crow Band has arrived at this point.
Through several years of gigging hard as they built up an audience, Crow and company have come to the point where they have enough material and a sizable enough following to demand a live album. They have responded to this demand with a collection of songs that sound much larger sonically than their studio counterparts.
This can most likely be attributed to Crow’s band. They are tight from countless nights spent burning roadhouses down and honing their craft in the smoke-filled venues of the Red Dirt circuit. Their musicianship smooths rough edges and lends some strength to the spots in the show/album where Crow’s voice needs help shouldering the load. Crow’s vocals come across like Gary Allan meets Tom Petty at times…but he always uses his instrument to suit the song. The addition of Meagan Jones on backing vocals is a nice boost to this cause and helps give all the vocals a larger place in the mix than they might have otherwise seen.
The set list is composed of many favorites from over the years and it kicks off with “Driftin’ In the Wind”. This first track does a tremendous job of setting the tone for the rest of the album and it is followed by “She’s The Only Reason” which features a shout along repeating chorus that would please Nikki Sixx. The pace stays upbeat before landing on “Hollywood”. This is a power ballad that has the ladies in the audience singing along and Crow delivering his best vocal of the album.
Much of Crow’s catalog is full of lyrics that detail heartbreak and desolation. Yet, he and his band bring a strong intensity to each of these tracks that make even the most desolate turns of phrase seem momentous as they plow through tracks like “Change” and “Sayin’ Goodbye”.
It is, of course, all building up to the “Wear My Ring” crescendo, on which BCB does not disappoint. They deliver the song with a fresh energy that matches the crowd’s enthusiasm for the song that has become Crow’s calling card.
A key to any live album is the energy coming from the crowd, and those who attended the Brewster Street sessions were evidently vocal, boisterous and happy to be there. The energy they give off and to the band is a critical element that makes this a successful live record. Additional kudos must be given to producer/engineer Adam Odor for capturing the raw essence of the band in their element without muddying things up as can often happen on a live recording.
This is a live collection that falls in line with the other good live records from this scene. It will make those who are already fans of Bart Crow happy and it will also turn some unfamiliar ears onto what it is that they are doing.