Joe Firstman

Live at the Treehouse

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Given the title of Joe Firstman's second album to be released in 2010, Live at the Treehouse, it should be pointed out up-front that this is not a live album in the traditional sense of a concert recording; "the Treehouse" is the name of Firstman's recording studio, and when he says "live," he means only that the recordings were made without overdubs. On the other hand, the album does share a major characteristic with most "live" albums in that it consists largely of re-recordings of songs the artist had recorded previously, rather than new material. These new versions reflect Firstman's change of musical approach. After making his major-label debut with the AOR rock sound of The War of Women in 2003, he spent four years as bandleader on Last Call with Carson Daly. But as of 2009, he has been hitting the road for as many as 200 shows a year, just him and his acoustic guitar, and Live at the Treehouse should prepare potential listeners at those shows for what they're going to hear, as Firstman takes some of his old songs and strips the rock arrangements off. Sometimes he rocks out anyway, notably on "Fight Song" (given its first studio recording here), which has the knockabout country-blues feel of a track on Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home. But more often, he has slowed the tempos and emphasized the lyrics while pairing with such fellow performers as Brian Wright, Tim Jones, Walker Young, Jamie Drake, Mike Vizcarra (who doubles as co-producer), and Jay Buchanan (who actually sings lead on the previously unheard "Middle Ground"). The result is an album on which Firstman reinvents himself, making a virtue of necessity. (The digital version of the album added two tracks: "Speak Your Mind" and "Crowded Town.")

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