In folk-rock, there is a lot to be said for minimalism. That isn't to say that there is anything wrong with employing a skillful producer or using lavish, elaborate arrangements; some folk-rockers have excelled in that type of environment. But the minimalist approach to folk-rock -- simplicity, intimacy, fewer instruments -- can be a total delight if the artist is an effective storyteller. Jenny Bird is exactly that, and an intimate setting works well for the Taos, NM, resident on Living in Skin (which documents an August 28, 2003, concert at Taos' Tone Palace). Bird doesn't get a lot of help from other musicians on these live performances; occasionally, the veteran singer/songwriter is joined by percussionist Dave Bryant and/or fellow guitarist Michael Mandrell, but most of the time Bird's only accompaniment is her own guitar. Of course, that spare approach has a way of making one's vocals quite exposed and vulnerable -- having fewer instruments means fewer places for a singer to hide. But Bird doesn't need anywhere to hide. She's a seasoned, skillful troubadour, and the less-is-more approach clearly works to her artistic advantage on "Spring Snow," "State of Grace," and other contemplative, reflective originals. This is the stuff that folk and folk-rock enthusiasts dream of -- an expressive communicator sharing her thoughts in as intimate a fashion as possible. Not surprisingly, Bird's catalog consists of mostly studio albums; even in the folk world, studio recordings greatly outnumber live recordings. Nonetheless, live performances are an important part of the folk-rock experience, and Living in Skin is a fine document of Bird on-stage.
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