Jim Branca is something of a cult figure with the Vermont blues aficionados. And while this album certainly lives up to the warts and all feel of a live effort – complete with an enthusiastic crowd – the downside is that the evening’s exuberance sometimes comes at the expense of restraint.
Thus Jim opens with George Harrison’s Here Comes The Sun, and proceeds to murder any semblance of subtly. Then as if to balance things out he adds a quite delicate, almost Jerry Garcia style guitar break on Dylan’s It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry.
As Muddy Water Flows Things Become Clear, is a Jim original derived from a Zen book he read. It enjoys a funky signature, and Jim’s tough growl rises over Greg Sefner’s organ. On another self penned effort Howlin at the Moon (also the title of a radio show Jim hosted) he adds some telling slide over a disguised reggae beat.
The cutely titled Life’s Been Livin’ Me is a similarly groove laden piece while another Branca penned Dancing in The Same Wound is built around a soulful arrangement with a big hook.
The encore is a Beatles coda with a curious ballad arrangement of I Wanna Hold Your Hand, a case of accommodating Jim’s big and at times wayward vocals – probably great in a late night club situation but often exposed on a live recording such as this. In short this is probably an album for all the fans who were there on the night.