Lately, I've been spending most of my time listening to live albums and compilations. Even though I own many studio albums, I find myself being moved by the raw energy only a live recording can capture. Attending a great concert can be very uplifting and it gives you a more personalized experience with the music of your favorite artist.
Recently, I stumbled upon the music of Mike Mizwinski from Scranton.
Mike is an incredibly talented guitarist and a fine singer-songwriter. His style could be best described as Americana, folk or bluegrass. He is one of the few musicians that can walk into a new venue and grab the audience with the very first song. Recently, Mike has opened for Bob Dylan, Leon Russell and Kenny Wayne Shepherd and is set to release a full-length album with his all star-band, Miz. I've been listening to Mike Mizwinski's solo acoustic album, "Live from Downtown Arts," for the past few months and am always impressed by his honest lyrics, smooth vocals and painfully amazing guitar picking. Check out Mike Mizwinski solo at the 4th Street Grille and Alehouse every Monday in October.
Last year, I saw the Avett Brothers on Austin City Limits and instantly knew they were something special. From Concord, N.C., Scott and Seth Avett write beautifully simple lyrics and crafty little melodies that are complemented by the multi-part vocal harmonies and unpredictable arrangements. The Avett Brothers can't be pigeonholed into any one particular musical genre; you will hear elements of punk, bluegrass, folk, country, rock and pop influences. My wife and I saw them at Mountain Jam this year and were completely blown away by their raw enthusiasm, professionalism, and unbridled live energy. Something about them stirs my soul; perhaps it's the spasmodic screams set against the acoustic guitar, banjo, cello and upright bass.
The Drive By Truckers are a favorite of mine that are best experienced live.
In February, I caught their performance at the Pullo Center in York. DBT set the place ablaze. By the end of the show, I could barely talk (or hear, for that matter.) Since then, I've been constantly listening to DBT and continue to unearth gems in their expansive catalog. For more than a decade, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have been writing hard-driving songs about life, love and the social-economic struggles of the American south. Listen to "Brighter Than Creation's Dark," "The Big To Do" or "Live from Austin City Limits" for an introduction to the Drive By Truckers.
Wilco is another band that continues to impress me on many levels. Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt formed Wilco in 1994 from the remains of the alt-country band Uncle Tupelo. Wilco's music is difficult to describe. A little country, rock and blues, mixed with elements of classic pop and a heavy dose of experimental-psychedelia. Tweedy sings with a worn, scrappy voice, one that struggles to reach the high notes and sounds at times weak and vulnerable, a voice that complements a man who appears hesitant and uncomfortable behind the microphone.
Read the lyrics of a Wilco song and Tweedy's true genius becomes evident. Ranging from concrete to abstract, focused to meandering, many of Tweedy's lyrics explore the poignant and self-effacing reflections of a man struggling with internal discontent and a deeply abstract personality.
Wilco is a band of talented musicians led by the ultra-talented, free-jazz guitarist Nels Cline, multi-instrumentalists Pat Sansone, Mikael Jorgensen and drummer Glenn Klotche. They blend thoughtful arrangements with interesting timing and tempo changes, great melodic structures and a willingness to explore experimental jams with a uniqueness all their own.
Since I'm running out of space, here is my "stuck on a deserted island," must-have album list: Drive By Truckers "Live from Austin City Limits;" The Avett Brothers "Live, Volume 3;" Wilco "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" (this one never leaves my truck); Steve Earle, Ain't Ever Satisfied;" Jeff Buckley "Sketches for my Sweetheart the Drunk;" Ryan Adams "Heartbreaker;" The Pixies "Death to the Pixies;" David Crowder Band "A Collision;" Third Day "Wherever You Are;" Brandi Carlisle "The Story" and Neil Young's "Ragged Glory."