Published May 19, 2009Making your fourth album a live effort isn't the most conventional decision, but much-praised troubadour/sideman to the stars (Kathleen Edwards, the Tragically Hip) Jim Bryson has never had an orthodox career. His charm and wit as a performer have endeared him to a loyal fan base that will find plenty to enjoy in Live At The First Baptist Church, recorded in his Ottawa hometown. The church's acoustics are an asset, as is Bryson's superb cast of sidemen. Songs from all three solo albums are featured, and some of the tunes from his last (and best) disc, Where The Bungalows Roam, are given a fuller sound here. Live captures the endearing ramshackle nature of a typical Bryson gig and his entertaining banter, though to these ears there's a bit too much crowd noise. One of his best songs, "Sleeping In Toronto" (recorded at an earlier bar gig), is ruined by an excessive clap- and sing-along section. But Bryson redeems himself with searing closing cut "Mean Streak," which proves he can rock out too. This generous 16-song collection validates Bryson's reputation as one of our very best songsmiths.
Why did you decide to put out a live album?
I wanted to have it because people asked for it. I'd often get people telling me, "Your shows don't sound anything like your records." I totally agree that we sound different. I wouldn't say dramatically but there is definitely a different energy about it. Live, you don't have the same kind of consequence or pressure that many people feel when they are recording, so records often feel a little tighter.
Many live records downplay the crowd noise and interaction but this one includes everything, warts and all
What are you going to do? The microphones are there. This was supposed to be the document of a show and that includes what a show is. Me screwing up! I'm okay. with getting the pie in my face for a good gag, as they say. I do long song introductions and we cut many of those out. I talk so much at a show someone said, "Are you going to release just the banter?" I mess up songs. There are mistakes but there are mistakes in shows.
Your career is split between solo work and touring with Kathleen Edwards and now the Hip. Are you pleased with that balance?
Yes. I get asked regularly how I feel about making a living where it's not my music I'm playing. I never thought I'd be making a living in music so I think it works. There are definitely times where I wish I had a little more time to do my own thing and get stuff done. At the same time, I accept the way it is and I enjoy all the other things I get to do. It has had a really positive effect on my music. I could sit and mope, "oh, poor me, I don't sell enough records," but I don't really see it that way. (Kelp)