Written by James Killen
Making a live album has always been a hit or miss prospect. There have been great ones like The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East and Joni Mitchell’s Miles of Aisles and then again, a whole host of them that have dropped off into obscurity. When Libby chose to reproduce her first full length album live, she chose to tap Patterson Barrett and the Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio as the perfect control environment to get the results that she was looking for.
The original Redemption came out ten years ago, hence the title of this production. The Blue Rock is a recording studio with facilities for a small audience. They were able to add just enough audience participation to get the live feel, but avoided the clinking bottles and bar noises that plague some recordings. Mr. Barrett was able to put together a dream band of session musicians with Libby’s music style in mind. Bill Browder added some fantastic guitar leads on “Down” and “Don’t Give Up on Me” while Javier Chaparro added all things violin AND fiddle. Patterson Barrett was omnipresent in the mix, adding pedal steel, organ, piano and mandolin in addition to leading the band.
The songs, of course, were not new, but seemed to take on a new sheen. When Libby put out Redemption ten years ago, she was just dipping her toe in the music business. Now, with a few years of making contacts, touring and generally gaining confidence as an artist, she has been able to put a bold new attitude to the work. I have read that in fact this disc was made using the first take as they originally put it down even though they had recorded some alternate takes while they were in the recording mode.
So if I’m going to qualify Redemption 10 as either great or obscure, it would easily fit into the great category. While the professionalism of the musicians and Libby’s smooth vocals keep the recording from obscurity and make it very listenable, that is not what makes it great. What makes it great is how they were able to capture Ms. Koch’s indomitable spirit. When I hear Redemption 10, I can see her bright eyes and friendly grin. Her voice seems to say, “How the Hell are y’all. Sit down and have a beer or four.” This recording is the closest you can get to knowing Libby without meeting her in person.