Kristin Hersh, Live at Noe Valley Ministry

Michael McCall

By Michael McCall

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Stripping Hersh down to her voice and acoustic guitar suggests a therapist peeling back the layers of a troubled patient to get to their emotional core. On this 25-track live solo concert, the Throwing Muses leader remains as impassioned and knotty as ever, only the setting brings more focus to the gnarled torment in her lyrics and the incessant intensity of her astringent voice. Recorded in San Francisco in 1998, this set was originally made available in 2001 at shows and online. Its popularity among her fans prodded Hersh to make the album easier to obtain.

The 25-song set draws from Hersh's solo albums and her band's work, but in this format there's little difference between the two: She plays most songs with a fierce, driving downstroke, which lends luster to her occasional melodic picking, as in the opening of the wickedly personal "Same Sun," one of the album's highlights. Her between-song stories, from talking about her father's acid days to a hilariously horrific tale about dealing with mice in her Providence apartment, offer a welcome glimpse of the singer's sharp wit and personality. The album also features a few rarities, including a fine take on the Appalachian folk standard "Cuckoo."

Despite being the only encapsulation of her solo and band work, this isn't the best place to first hear Hersh, but fans of her songs will treasure the chance to hear them performed in such a naked state.