Garrison Starr’s ‘Relive’
- Article by: Daryl Sanders
- Posted: 11/09/2011
Traditionally, live albums have been more likely to end up in bins at used record stores than in someone’s music collection, in part because they generally include inherently inferior recordings of songs already released as studio recordings.
There have been exceptions, of course, rare albums where the live versions of songs actually topped the studio recordings — and that is the case with singer-songwriter Garrison Starr’s live record, Relive.
Coproducers Andy Hubbard and Winn Elliott approached Starr about recording an intimate live performance of material from her past studio albums, songs which had not received the attention they deserved. Though unexpected, the offer came at a good time for the singer-songwriter, so one evening in the summer of 2010, Starr, a backing band and a string section gathered at a now-defunct space in Nashville called The Darkroom before a group of 40 or so friends and fans to record what would become Relive.
Only two of the twelve songs performed on Relive are previously unreleased — the opener “Everything You Thought You Knew Is Wrong,” which Starr cowrote with Adrianne Gonzalez, and “Heart Collector.” The latter is an infectious three minutes and forty-six seconds of radio-friendly rock & roll that is nothing short of brilliant.
Four of the songs from the night — “Fall to You,” “On My Mind,” “Serious” and “Desperate Hand” — appeared on Starr’s very first recording, Pinwheels, which she jokingly refers to during the show as “the multi-platinum-selling cassette tape from 1993.”
The remainder of the set includes songs from albums Starr made for the Geffen, Virgin and Vanguard labels, as well as a pair of tunes from her last release, The Girl That Killed September.
The show also included “Sit With Me Tonight,” a song Starr cowrote with Nini Camps which was featured in the television series Life Unexpected. Her rendition of the song that appears on Relive is warmer and more passionate than the version that appeared in the TV series.
And that is true of all the previously released material on the record and is why this album succeeds where so many live records fail. Starr’s performance of “Beautiful In Los Angeles” is stronger and more assured than the original released on 2006’s The Sound of You & Me. The same can be said for “Hardest Part of Living,” which first appeared on 2002’s Songs From Take-off To Landing. And the closer, “Ugly,” from Starr’s 1997 major-label debut Eighteen Over Me, soars and inspires in a way the original did not.
The rhythm section of drummer Hubbard, bassist Tommy Lee, guitarist Kris Donegan and keyboardist/accordionist Jonathan Hamby, the string section of cellist David Henry and violinists Eamon McLoughlin and Katie Studley, and the background vocals by Jessica Campbell are so tight that until you hear the audience’s applause, it is easy to forget you are listening to a live recording. What makes it all the more amazing is they had only one rehearsal and a quick run-through with Starr prior to making the record. But in spite of that, every performance was one take and there was no overdubbing after the fact.
Relive captures an evening of magical moments by Starr and company, and in the process, serves as a reminder of the contributions the gifted singer-songwriter has made to the popular musical landscape.