Live From Nowhere Near You is a benefit CD that features performances by Portland-area street musicians both on their own and in collaboration with professional musicians. Beginning with the relatively simple idea of recording the street musicians he encountered for posterity, advertising executive and amateur musician Kevin Moyer expanded his project to include contributions from notables like Spoon and Metric's Emily Haines, as well as Northwest homies like Chris Ballew of the Presidents of the United States of America. Stylistically, the 27-song set ranges from snatches of street-level blues to understated indie rock. There's hip-hop here and there and a handful of unclassifiable, moment-in-time performances, such as the Lakota Sioux song recorded on a downtown Portland avenue. Uniting this sonic patois is a series of sound beds that cushions the space between each track. The chattering media samples, ambient traffic noise, and non sequitur field recordings set the scene for Nowhere Near You in much the same way a headphone audio program would guide an elaborate museum installation. Spoon contributes "Stay Don't Go" from its acclaimed Kill the Moonlight, but the best material here is the amateur or the ambling, the stuff that retains Moyer's original idea to simply turn on the mic and press record. Squirrel Nut Zippers collaborate on some easygoing funk with street musician Bruce Rohlfs; indie poppers Kissing Book join with street percussionist Dan Wynn and the Softies' Jen Sbragia on the lilting, acoustic "Much Too Much"; and Ballew, who pre-Presidents was a street busker, strings together a handful of field recordings over a jazzy, Us3-style loop. While it is consistently entertaining (and enlightening) throughout, Nowhere Near You's final arc might be its best. Beginning with an epic ballad by a group of Bardic punks, it moves through some inspired Red House Painters-style work from local Greg Snell before fading into a loose jam featuring Moyer himself and a crashing thunderstorm, only to spike the punch with a ragged rave-up from Mike McCready and Stone Gossard. But soon Snell is back with "Wish I," with the resonant lyric "Gotta make it on my own/Gotta take the long way home/I'm miles away from anyone who'll ever hurt me." Live From Nowhere Near You succeeds because it never pedestals the plight of its participants or pleads for handouts from an ivory tower. It celebrates talent instead of lamenting urban blight.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus