Live recordings present the most recent songs in a stripped down glory.
Anna Tivel released the album ‘Outsiders‘ last year, and it continued a series of song collections in which there are stories so finely observed that they ring with truth, with a rich accompaniment that perfectly complimented Anna Tivel’s distinctive vocals – urgent, expressive and so often about to disappear into the silence of a faded whisper. And here’s a new way of looking at these same songs – ‘Outsiders (Live in a Living Room)‘ is an accurate self-description, this is the same album but recorded live with Jon Neufeld, both on acoustic guitar, creating intimate renditions of all eleven songs from ‘Outsiders‘ as well as B-side single ‘American Novella.’ This is, of course, typically the Deluxe-package second disc, but Anna Tivel has done the decent thing and not made this stripped down version of the album only available by purchasing the original album again.
Anna Tivel is quite something in the live setting – with every word placed with precision, every pause and breath as integral as the guitar performance. And so it’s no surprise that ‘Outsiders (Live in a Living Room)‘ is fully the equal of the album that spawned it – and on some songs arguably superior to the originals. With the quirky accompaniment removed ‘Royal Blue‘ really shines with the tentative confession of a love that previously was always just a concept, a pleasant thought with no reality. The bonus song ‘American Novella‘ paints a picture of an end-of-life experience, as a life story comes to a conclusion – and contrasts that end with the tentative thoughts of new life of a couple across the street, the new story of their future lives and also the terrifying responsibility that might come with it “I want a baby but I’m scared to let it grow inside of me / where there’s been only emptiness and truths I struggle to believe“. This is Anna Tivel at her finest – cutting between strangely connected characters, and reflecting on the perils of life and hoping that an end can be a celebration rather than something to be approached with only dread. And, this was “just” a B-side.
There’s one thing for certain – anyone who already really digs the sounds of one of Portland’s premiere singer-songwriters is very likely going to want to hear this version of ‘Outsiders‘. And that goes double for anyone who has had the good fortune to catch Anna Tivel live. And even if you’d never heard Anna Tivel before this would still be a great place to start, it’s a thing of beauty and even more importantly it actually matters.