Sunday, September 11, 2011


They are all the rage, and if you haven't been to a house concert, please consider it.  More and more musicians are doing them, as an option to fill in dates during tours, or profitable add-on dates in their local areas.  Fans like 'em because of the relaxed atmosphere, the up-close and personal feel, and the better set-up than most clubs.

Christina Martin's new album lets you hear what a house concert is like, with the casual and funny chat, the stripped-down acoustic sound, and the audience comments.  With only a little judicious editing, this set features no overdubs, no retakes, and it's just like it happened that night, including the singalongs and remarks from the few dozen friends and neighbours.  The hour-long disc features tracks from Martin's first three albums, either her alone with her acoustic or joined by husband/producer/multi-instrumentalist/harmony singer Dale Murray.

There's a twist though, it's not somebody else's party, this was actually done at Martin and Murray's house in rural Nova Scotia, where they have a home studio.  It wasn't really cheating, because it was the same atmosphere, and was all set for making a disc.  The project was done with an organization called PledgeMusic, which works with the artist to get funding, and sees the project divert some of the bucks to charity, in this case the Canadian Mental Health Association.  So people that pledged money got various levels of payback, including autographed discs, right up to seats at the show.

I always love seeing Martin live, but this show, despite some nerves she mentions, saw her at her best.  And although she might like playing with her full band when she can, Murray is a tremendous sideman, especially when he drops in pedal steel licks.  Knowing her discs well, I have a hard time choosing between the full versions, and the stripped-back acoustic ones.  There's an especially strong take of Take, and I always love how Martin draws from this well of emotion when performing these songs.

I could perhaps put 6 to 8 people, plus Martin and Murray, in my place for a house (well, apartment) concert.  Christina, the offer is on the table.

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