Colleen Brown @ Cameron House

. : : July 4th, 2012 : : .

If there’s one thing that can be said about Colleen Brown, it’s that she doesn’t stay in one place, musically speaking, for very long.

When I first discovered her back in the spring of 2010, she was touring behind the re-release of Foot In Heart on Emm Gryner‘s Dead Daisy Records label. Since the original Foot In Heart was released independently three years earlier, it was only natural she was road testing new material — much of which would end up on her most recent LP, last year’s Collen Brown’s DIRT, and the rest of which would eventually be unfortunately discarded.

But when Colleen Brown took to the road upon the initial release of DIRT, I don’t think anyone expected to be hearing even newer material, but that’s just what she brought. And each visit through town has brought out yet another.

It was odd, only ten months removed from the landmark release date, to be witnessing a set that was one-third brand new, fresh, unpressed material, but it’s just what happened at Colleen’s recent opening set at the Back Room at Cameron’s House.

The Cameron House is a pretty small venue to begin with — but with a separate back room that’s no bigger than the average bungalow’s basement, it was about as intimate a venue as one could get.

So, perhaps it was fitting that this felt more like a house party than the average Colleen Brown gig. Not only in that she pulled back the curtain on new, and still fairly rough material, but also in the loose performance and friendly, familiar between song chatter.

For most of the performance, Colleen was joined on stage by Micheal Rault on bass. Some songs worked better than others, but there were a couple of points where the duo just couldn’t get in synch.

The set started off exceptionally roughly, as Baby Blue Eyes was perhaps the biggest offender in this regard, but whether that’s due to Rault’s relative unfamiliarity with the songs (or at least unpracticed; I understand his presence was a somewhat last minute addition), Colleen’s loose guitar picking, or distraction from the Devin Cuddy Band (yes, Jim’s son) who was playing in the Cameron House’s main room at the time, and with the stage more or less sharing a wall, I couldn’t say.

Whatever the cause, they were back in synch for the next song, Happy Love Song. The set-up especially when the bass got to take the forefront for the middle-eight section. But the evening’s highlight came at the end of the set, when the duo was joined on stage by Noel Johnson, the next act on the evening’s bill, for a solid one-two punch of Love You Baby and a cover of Leonard Cohen‘s Bird On A Wire.

Being a minimal set-up, and heavily featuring rough new material, I wouldn’t advise new Colleen Brown fans to start with this tape; January’s set at the Dakota Tavern is probably a better jumping on point for live CB material. But, for existing fans and collectors, Colleen delivered an extremely generous 50-minute opening set (even headliners, the Autumn Portrait didn’t play that long!), and debuted some new material that we’ll probably hear more of as they continue to mature.

The sound quality is solid, although there is admittedly the occasional chatter, and bleed through from the Devin Cuddy Band, but if you’re sold despite the aforementioned caveats, the sound quality certainly isn’t going to be what dissuades you. Check out the sample below if you’re on the fence.

01. [introduction]
02. Baby Blue Eyes
03. Happy Love Song
04. Lead Me On
05. [banter]
06. [unknown]
07. [banter]
08. [unknown]
09. [banter]
10. Singing In The Garden
11. [banter]
12. 7 Hours & 15 Days
13. [banter]
14. Love You Baby *
15. [banter]
16. Bird On A Wire [Leonard Cohen] *

* With Noel Johnson

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Bird on a Wire (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Big thank you to the wonderful Colleen Brown, Michael Rault, Noel Johnson and The Cameron House.

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