Chris & Carla

Come as You Aren't

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Another in the series of irregular official bootlegs sold by the Walkabouts on tour, this particular release finds the duo from a June 2001 performance in Brussels, done, as Eckman notes in his introductory words, without any connection to an album or the like. He described the resultant set list as "whimsical," a fair enough description but by no means indicating it's a flighty affair -- the sense of subtle dread, restrained moods, and deep, almost mystical performances that characterize Chris and Carla's work is very much in place. Eckman's voice is particularly low and soft throughout much of the set -- in many ways he's never sounded quite so like Leonard Cohen before -- while Torgerson's more immediate lead turns again carry an intense but never uncontrolled strength. What's particularly striking is hearing how the two expand the hushed folk sway at the heart of their songs with broader, involved musical strokes even in a stripped-down setting, as with the minimal electric guitar chug on "Lift Your Burdens Up" or the piano on "Leaving Kind." Melodica at more than one point provides a link back to such sources of inspiration as Bob Dylan (though to be sure Torgerson plays it a lot better than he does harmonica). Hands-down winners include a gripping take on "Velvet Fog" -- the pauses alone before the title words are sung make this particular rendition definitive -- and a strong, measured version of "Slow Red Dawn." Though mostly originals, two covers surface at the end -- one, a lengthy interpretation of Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer," is fine though arguably an overdone selection (though the opening goof on Roger Miller's "King of the Road" is good fun). As a result, the second, set-closing remake is the real winner of note -- "Can You Fly?," originally done by Freedy Johnston.