Karla Bonoff

Live

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Karla Bonoff has been anything but prolific. During her 30-year recording career she has released only four albums of new material as a solo artist (and a couple with an early group she revived in the '90s, Bryndle), and the last of those solo albums came in 1988. Since then there's been only a best-of, released eight years before this double-CD live set, which is comprised almost exclusively of the singer/songwriter's older songs. So for the time being, it seems, fans will have to be content with the possibility that Bonoff's days of creating a significant body of new music -- there are only two new songs among the 21 here -- are quite possibly over, and take what they can get. And what they get here is familiarity. Bonoff came up as part of the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter scene of the '70s, and Linda Ronstadt in particular was so fond of her work that she covered a number of Bonoff's songs, eclipsing the writer's own versions of them and quite possibly costing Bonoff any serious recognition as a performing artist. This live recording, made in a small club in Santa Barbara, does little to erase that association, as Bonoff's primary accompanist here is multi-instrumentalist Kenny Edwards, who got his first taste of fame with Ronstadt before going on to produce Bonoff's first few albums. The arrangements they perform at the show (there are two other musicians, guitarist Nina Gerber and drummer Scott Babcock) are largely in keeping with the originals -- no one's looking to reinvent anything here. Nonetheless, it's a fine performance indeed, and while it may not bring her many new fans, the concert renditions sparkle, proving that Bonoff has lost none of her vocal purity or her ability to deliver a song with warmth and honesty. As for the two new ones, "What About Joanne" and "Baja Oklahoma" (which was actually written in 1988, just never recorded), they're consistent with Bonoff's classics, and could easily have come from any of those few albums she made in the day. Which of course leads to the question: when can fans expect more?

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