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The Waifs

Live From the Union of Soul – 2009 (Compass)

Reviewed by Jacquilynne Schlesier

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CDs by The Waifs

Capturing the feel of a live show on CD is a perennial challenge. The same between song banter and flexible arrangements that make each performance feel unique can seem forced or annoying after repeated listens. With this set of songs recorded during their Union of Soul Australian tour in 2008, The Waifs get the balance almost exactly right.

The collection offers a mix of styles from a bluegrass version of When I Die to the bluesy Sundirtwater and the retro groove of Eternity. There are also guest appearances from Clare Bowditch and their label mate John Butler. These tracks weren't selected for perfection: there are harmonies that fade in and out, and laughter that invades some verses. In place of precision, they offer the loose, easy feeling of a group that's playing in their comfort zone. The album also includes some of the stage banter, but that translates less well.

Instead of creating a feeling of intimacy, the choices seem to highlight the distance between the listener and the live show by drawing attention to unheard and unseen things happening offstage. The warmth and spontaneity of the audience reaction is a testament to the power of The Waifs' stage show, and while this isn't precisely like being there, it's a close second.