It's fitting that head Decemberist Colin Meloy's first "official" release as a solo artist would be a live album, as the bespectacled auteur has already self-released (in very limited quantities and only available at shows) a collection of Morrissey covers, an EP of Sam Cooke songs, and a set of tunes from British folk legend Shirley Collins. On Colin Meloy Sings Live!, the focus is on the author's own material, touching on everything from the Decemberists catalog and recent unreleased solo material to songs from his first band, Tarkio. Recorded over a span of two weeks in 2006, Meloy strips things down to just acoustic guitar and voice, allowing audiences an atypically arrangement-free peek into the noted bibliophile's vast arsenal of song. Fan favorites like "Engine Driver," "Gymnast, High Above the Ground," and "Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect," the latter of which features a nice Fleetwood Mac "Dreams" coda, benefit from the newfound austerity, exposing plenty of previously buried lyrical twists and hidden melodies. That said, Sings Live! is not a landmark album, nor even a superb "live" album, but the sound quality is decent enough (though the "acoustic guitar through the board" is a bit disappointing), and Meloy is a jovial host with his adoring fans, who ultimately this collection of songs was released for.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger