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Libby Koch

Redemption 10: Live at Blue Rock – 2019 (Berkalin)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Libby Koch

Houston-based singer-songwriter and former lawyer Libby Koch celebrates the 10th anniversary of her first album, "Redemption," by releasing a full band, live audience setting for what was originally a solo acoustic album. This marks the first time she's recorded live, finding an intimate setting and state-of-art recording technology in one cool place - The Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio in Wimberly, Texas. Koch's friend, multi-instrumentalist Patterson Barrett (Buddy Miller, Nanci Griffith, Jerry Jeff Walker) enlisted a top shelf group of Austin musicians to support her on these 10 tracks.

Koch and the band played the album straight through and then reprised a few songs, choosing eventually to put the first takes on the album. The audience is more than enthusiastic; they wanted to be heard too and did their part in stimulating the band and creating a very palpable chemistry that rings through.

She begins with a heartfelt nod to her hometown in the rave-up "Houston," with the band already at full throttle. "Just the Way," the single, comes down a few notches as Koch sings fondly about a past relationship. "Can't Complain" is a medium-tempo tune about contentment while "Stay With Me" finds Koch singing in hushed tones over acoustic strumming, Barrett's organ and Javier Chaparro's lovely fiddle, a vibe that continues into the title track. The band steps it up for "How Long," and gets even rowdier with the piano-driven "Down," as the audience encourages Chapparo's blazing fiddle run in the mid-section, that's followed by barrelhouse piano and scintillating guitar solos, before Koch wails on the way out, leaving the audience enthralled.

"Don't Give Up on Me" and "Ready Now" feature bright band support and an animated Koch before she ends sentimentally with the only cover, Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone," infusing it with just the right amount of emotion, with another stellar Chaparro solo and vocal harmonies keeping the tune vibrant, and far from maudlin.

Koch is having a great time and one can practically envision the smiling faces among the band and audience in this live recording.