Still Live

Colin Linden

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Still Live Review

by Hal Horowitz

Even though this hour-long live set was recorded in October 2010, it was released two years later to mark Canadian singer/songwriter/producer/guitarist Linden's 30th anniversary as a professional musician. It's a terrific show, led by Linden's bluesy guitar and vocals and backed by a tight three-piece band that includes Southern soul keyboard legend Spooner Oldham. The dozen songs are cherry-picked from Linden's ten previous studio outings, with Howlin' Wolf's "Who's Been Talking" as its only cover. The liner notes explain that Wolf was 11-year-old Linden's first concert, and the bluesman had such a lasting effect that he eventually helmed a 1999 Wolf tribute album. Although blues, specifically of the Delta variety, is at the heart of Linden's music, he uses it to underpin tunes that mix heavy doses of swamp rock, country, and folk with melodies that shift from haunting to jumpy. It's disappointing that although Linden has played on approximately 350 albums, produced or co-produced about 100 artists, and contributed music to movies as varied as O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Hunger Games, he is playing to a tiny club that, judging from the sparse applause, isn't even very crowded. Regardless, he's clearly in his element, reviving hidden gems from throughout his career and ramping up the energy and intensity for the stage. He goes solo for a stunning acoustic version of "Smoke ‘Em All," his nimbly fingerpicked tribute to late pianist and longtime friend Richard Bell. And Linden has surely listened to his Ry Cooder records because his slide emulates Cooder's throbbing, reverbed, often mysterious approach in various places but especially on "Sugar Mine." As a vocalist, Linden's dusky croon is distinctive, soulful, and colors already great songs with a burnished hue. His gutsy singing on the gospel vibe of "Sinking Down Slow" turns the track into one of the disc's highlights as it sets the stage for the song's taut slide solo. That the multi-talented Linden has stayed under the popular radar for three decades is a sad commentary on the state of roots music, but this is a wonderful place to start an appreciation of the artist and gradually work your way through the rest of his superb catalog.

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