album reviews

Colin Meloy
Colin Meloy Sings Live!
Kill Rock Stars (2008)

The Decemberists' Colin Meloy always seems to play down his solo work. Although he has toured on his own several times, his only solo recordings have been two EPs of covers (songs by Morrissey on one, songs arranged by folk singer Shirley Collins on the other), available only at his shows.

Meloy's latest solo effort has wider distribution. As its title implies, "Colin Meloy Sings Live!" is compiled from recordings at shows on his 2006 solo tour. Although it includes a few unreleased tracks (most notably "Wonder," a tender tribute to his impending fatherhood), the set list features mostly acoustic versions of his band's songs.

The Decemberists are known for their intricate arrangements, but the songs hold up well -- even without the instruments that seem so crucial in the original versions. Meloy uses percussive guitar chords to replace the climactic drum fills in "We Both Go Down Together," and he leads the audience in humming the missing organ line in the bridge of "Red Right Ankle."

The CD also showcases Meloy's humor and humility. "Dracula's Daughter," which he calls "the worst song I ever wrote," is too short to evaluate its awfulness (although such lines as "You think you got it bad?/Try having Dracula for your dad" certainly don't bode well), but Meloy's self-effacing presentation makes the song more charming than catastrophic.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 11 April 2008
.: Colin Meloy Sings Live! on