The unplugged format has a way of separating the men from the boys and the women from the girls. Take away the high-tech production gloss one can get in the studio, or the high volume that lots of amplification can provide on stage, and the artist may become very naked and exposed. That's why the less-talented, more disposable singer/songwriters are likely to hit rock bottom when they're doing an acoustic solo gig in a small coffee house -- their incompetence becomes painfully obvious. But on the other hand, singer/songwriters who have serious talent tend to fare well when they're acoustic and unaccompanied; their strengths are highlighted. A perfect example is Libby Kirkpatrick, whose second CD, Winged, is a collection of live performances from 2000. The Philadelphia native recorded Winged in Colorado -- her adopted home at the time -- and she doesn't have a full band on any of the tracks. It's just Kirkpatrick and her acoustic guitar, which is just as well because the element of vulnerability that comes with being unplugged works to her advantage on personal folk-rock items such as "To a Child," "Vaulted Heart," and "Ground Zero." It should be noted that the latter isn't about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; the pre-9/11 song is about an argument that Kirkpatrick once had with her father. Many of the influences who served the folk-rocker well on her first CD, Songs from the Ether, also serve her well on Winged -- influences ranging from Joni Mitchell to Joan Armatrading to Rickie Lee Jones (among others). But Kirkpatrick is always her own person, and her vocals are easily recognizable. Winged isn't quite as strong as Songs from the Ether; but nonetheless, this CD paints an attractive picture of Kirkpatrick's artistry.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson