Judge Paul Corupe might've enjoyed this disc better if his truck hadn't just broken down, his dog died, and his wife cheated on him with his cousin.
Filmed in Chicago, the second coming of PBS's critically acclaimed series Soundstage presents live music performances from contemporary artists with excellent sound and clarity, a commitment to broadcast excellence that has made it one of the finest regular live-performance music programs on television today. Fans of the show can now relive their favorite musical moments with Soundstage Presents, a series of DVDs distributed by Koch Vision. This release in the Soundstage Presents series pairs two half-hour music concerts by likeminded country artists Trace Adkins and Travis Tritt.
Tritt takes the stage first. A veteran of the Nashville club scene by the time he cut his first album in 1990, Tritt's blues rock-infused twang was an immediate hit with audiences, even if his self-cultivated rebel image held him back with the middle-of-the-road new country music industry. Here he performs six songs:
• Put Some Drive in Your Country
Tritt gets things sets the tone with his opener, "Put Some Drive in your Country," a song that name-checks Nashville heroes like George Jones and Waylon Jennings as he lays into his amped up set. Backed up by lap steel and bottleneck slide guitar, Tritt's country crooning gets its drive from a line-up of talented side players, and it squeezes some charm out of his "aw shucks" good old boy stage presence. The audience is heavily into his performance, and he puts on a solid, albeit brief, show that ought to please his fans.
Like Tritt, Adkins cut his teeth for years on the honkytonk and gospel circuit before achieving success in 1996 with his debut album, "Dreamin' Out Loud." Sporting a distinctive powerful baritone that drives his band through the paces, Adkins lays down a half dozen songs of his own in the second half of the program:
• (This Ain't) No Thinkin' Thing
Adkins' set is more traditional than Tritt's, but it's also much more mainstream, delivering a series of vocal-focused numbers that range from upbeat adult pop to maudlin ballads, tinged with light sprinklings of gospel, blues and traditional country. I'm sure there aren't too many new country artists that perform with full string sections, but Adkins makes use of them on two out of his six tracks, just one of his musical accoutrements that have brought him unsurprising crossover success. Unlike Tritt's off-the-cuff approach, Adkins stage routine and mid-song banter is obviously highly rehearsed and is much more typical of modern country performers, as is his long duster coat and cowboy hat.
Flimed in high definition, the show looks and sounds as excellent as you would expect, with crisp clarity and big, booming, Dolby 5.1 sound. The extras, however, are mostly throwaway: text biographies and discographies, 18 stills all taken from the show, a tour of Soundstage's soundstage, and two songs from Lyle Lovett's performance, not so coincidently also available on DVD. Actually Lovett's performances are quite good, and I enjoyed them more than any of the songs performed by Adkins or Tritt.
Although not a fan of either of these artists or the exceedingly commercialized genre of new country in general, I can certainly appreciate the competent performances of both artists presented here, which should meet with the approval of their bona fide devotees. The only real drawback to this release is that the concerts themselves are fairly short. With just six songs each, you only get a little flavor of each artist, but taken together, they should be enough to satisfy most appetites.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
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