Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart
Must Be Live
First Appeared at The Music Box, June 2002, Volume 9, #6
Written by John Metzger
Stacey Earle has done just about everything to avoid joining the music business — including a stint in domestic life. But for some folks (and some families) music is in their blood, and it’s only a matter of time before they jump in with both feet. Such is the case with Earle, who got her start harmonizing with her brother Steve on his 1990 release The Hard Way. Since then, it’s been all downhill, relatively speaking.
Now, after only two studio albums, Earle has released the double disc Must Be Live, which was drawn from recordings of more than forty concerts. And, although it contains significant overlap with her earlier efforts, the renditions here are a little more raw, a little more honest, and a little more heartfelt. Performed as acoustic duets with Earle’s husband Mark Stuart, the songs on Must Be Live perfectly capture the give-and-take between the duo and their audience, while offering an intimate portrait of human relationships between both family and lovers. It helps that the narrated song introductions are left intact, often adding humorous insight, while highlighting the angst and pain that lies beneath the surface.
Earle’s vocals compare favorably with those of Nanci Griffith and Iris DeMent, while Stuart sings in a style reminiscent of Steve Earle. The harmonization between the two singers adds a magical charm that masks some of the longing and heartache of the songs. Likewise, the guitar interplay is never flashy or showy; instead, it’s solid and supportive, serving to enhance the ambience painted by the lyrics.
Since joining together, Earle and Stuart have been touring relentlessly, regularly performing more than 250 shows a year. This has definitely allowed them to hone their craft, and Must Be Live is a warm and welcome invitation to their music. Good thing Earle found her way back to the business.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box