Libby Koch. Redemption 10 – Live At Blue Rock. Berkalin Records

redemption-10-album-coverWhenever she tours here in the UK, Texan singer songwriter Libby Koch is greeted with enthusiasm by the select band of followers who know of her. Live, she’s a treasure – warm and friendly, slightly sassy and with real red dirt roots – while her song writing is not to be sniffed at. Much of this is captured on Redemption 10, a live album (recorded in Blue Rock studios with an invited audience) which is essentially a remake of her first album recorded 10 years ago when she was still working as an attorney at a law firm in Houston. That album was a tentative toe in the water moment for Koch who has now released four studio albums, and while it might be egging the pudding to say it was a Damascene moment for her, its reception led to her swapping the courts for a life on the road.

Redemption was a stripped back affair, Koch, her guitar and harmonica, that’s all. Here, with a five-piece band behind her, it’s instructive to compare the discs. On the debut the songs sing out but Koch is somewhat restrained whereas here her voice has filled out and swings with her Texan accent, listen to way she now manages the undulations of How Long with a consummate ease as opposed to her more formal studio recording. Meanwhile the addition of the band gives the songs a great lift, a Technicolor scheme as opposed to the monochromatic original.

Opening with the sweet pedal steel and fiddle laced Houston, Koch sweeps through the album with aplomb. Just The Way has a Dylan (circa Desire) arrangement to it and Can’t Complain, a hardscrabble tale of red dirt living is quite magnificent, a song to rival many of Koch’s more famous peers and it’s followed by another excellent song, Redemption.

Time here to mention the stellar playing on fiddle by Javier Chaparo, guitar from Bill Browder and pedal steel wizard Patterson Barrett, all three concocting a swinging and smooth country rock backing. Barrett gets behind the piano for a raucous delivery of Down, unrecognisable from its parent album as Koch comes across as feisty as Linda Gail Lewis. Closing the album (as on the original) with Johnny Cash’s I Still Miss Someone, Koch and the band sound superb, leaving one wishing that someday Ms. Koch might be able to bring such a line up over here. In the meantime, the album’s an essential addition to any Koch fan’s library.

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