On this LIVE CD Craig Bickhardt demonstrates that he can hold his own with just about anybody on the musical stage, and unlike many of his contemporaries, he doesn't require a bag of recording studio tricks to make it all sound great. Accompanied by sparse but rock solid musicianship from Tom Hampton (mandolin, lap steel, baritone guitar and backing vocals), Michael G. Ronstadt (cello), and Tommy Geddes (drums and hand percussion), the set was captured exactly as it went down (sans Bickhardt's story-telling between songs). Recorded on a single evening in digital multi-track, the mix perfectly showcases Craig's pristine finger-picking, leathery-smooth vocals, and the band's tasteful underscoring. Even the handful of ballads in this set manage to convey an enthusiasm and excitement he obviously feels when he's in front of a receptive audience.
The songs, several of which appear on previous CDs, sustain Craig's reputation as a master of the craft. The newer tunes reveal him moving in a more lyrical direction, with "Men And Rivers" and "Crazy Nightingale" being obvious standouts. Also included here is an ass kicking cover of Richard Thompson's "From Galway To Graceland". Others have recorded a few of these Bickhardt gems before; Johnny Cash, The Rice Brothers, Charlie Louvin, and Trisha Yearwood to name a few, but with this release we finally catch a glimpse of Bickhardt's engaging stage persona. This is a listening experience that invites you to sit back and enjoy a veteran entertainer, picker and songwriter at the top of his game.
- Larry Ahearn