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Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart
Must Be Live
Never Gonna Let You Go

Review By Steven Stone
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Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart Must Be Live  Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart Never Gonna Let You Go

CD Number: EVL 2008-2 and EVL 2011-2 


  Stacy Earle shares genes with her brother Steve Earle, and while her songs are less gritty and visceral, they are no less powerful. Aided by her musical partner and husband, Mark Stuart, Stacy has written a passel of arresting songs and a developed a cadre of devoted fans.

Instead of releasing just one new album this year, Stacy and Mark decided to put out two. Must Be Live, as you might deduce from the title, has on-stage renditions of 36 tunes culled from Earle’s extensive catalog of original material. Her other new CD, Never Gonna Let You Go, features 13 new tunes recorded at the Treasure Isle studio in Nashville, Tennessee.  Together, these two CD's deliver an extra large dollop of Stacey Earle’s infectious ditties.

The first song on Never Gonna Let You Go is "Me and the Man in The Moon," opening with just Stacey’s vocals and guitar. Her voice has a folksy edge somewhat reminiscent of Nancy Griffith, but with a richer, more throaty timbre. Some of her tunes, such as "If You want My Love," have a deceptive childlike simplicity, while others such as "Our World’ veer toward adult rock and roll. Accompanying musicians Byron House on electric and upright bass, Michael Webb on piano, organ, mandolin and accordion, Craig Wright on drums and percussion, and Mark Stuart on electric and acoustic guitars as well as piano, are consummate professionals who can handle whatever mood best suits a song.  The arrangements are on the Spartan side, so they never overpower the melodies or lyrics.

As an added feature, some artists include an extra hidden track on a CD; Never Gonna Let You Go includes an entire extra disc of additional material. Entitled "In The Ruff," it has the working demos of each song on the studio CD. In some cases, except for the more polished sound, the studio versions don't improve on the original demo renditions. I especially like the demo version of "When She's Having Fun."

On Must Be Live the only performers are Stacey and Mark. Their guitars and voices, augmented very occasionally by Mark’s harmonica, produce music that sounds full despite the limited on-stage forces. The included performances were extracted from some forty or fifty concerts. Mark Stuart’s liner notes comment, "In the end you get the essence of Stacey and myself in a live duo setting." Folksy song introductions add additional personality and intimacy to the CD. Sound quality on Must Be Live varies from venue to venue, but generally maintains a remarkably high sonic level. Sure, the guitars have that unmistakable under-saddle piezo midrange honk, but the vocals are smooth and harmonically natural.

Choosing between these two releases could make Solomon indecisive. For hardcore Stacey Earle fans the decision is easy; they'll buy both. For newcomers I would recommend Never Gonna Let You Go, only because its 13 selections are easier to digest than the 39 cuts on Must Be Live. Together, these two releases make a totally satisfying evening’s musical repast.




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