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JFH Staff Review

Mat Kearney, Live Session (iTunes Exclusive)

Mat Kearney
Live Session (iTunes Exclusive)

Artist Info: Discography
Album length: 7 tracks: 30 minutes, 1 second
Street Date: December 8, 2009

I must admit, my immediate reaction to a short live EP by a contemporary pop/acoustic artist is dismissal, even for a highly talented artist like Mat Kearney. When the only "new" material offered on the Live Session (iTunes Exclusive) EP is an acoustic cover of the 1984 Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark," it doesn't even seem like a terribly enticing project for even the most hardcore fans.

With the exception of the title track from his first and a half album, Nothing Left To Lose, the EP's main source of material originates from his latest record, City of Black And White. The live version of "Nothing Left To Lose" loses much of its appeal as the music is unsuccessfully run through a thick southern filter. Likewise, "Here We Go" also has a southern tilt, but the strong ballad on City And Black And White sounds too boring here. Sadly, even the hit song "Closer To Love" isn't as strong as the original because the acoustic, guitar-driven track lacks the significance of the strategically placed piano to go along with Kearney's leading vocals.

But not everything on the EP is deficient, thankfully. Although folk artist Diane Birch's guest vocals don't offer anything vital (her vocals are uneventfully paired up with Kearney's rather than owning their own stanza) to "All I Have" or "City Of Black And White," both tracks are fairly satisfying. Also, Kearney does a nice job turning the regularly American rock song "Dancing In The Dark" into a good ballad.

Even though Mat Kearney has enjoyed some mainstream success and often sings of relationships over eternity, his song selection here is rather encouraging. The strong songwriter conveys how close tragedy is on "Closer to Love" while detailing where his hope lies ("Prayin' Lord come through/We're gonna get there soon/Oh it's your light/Oh it's your way/Pull me out of the dark/Just to show me the way"). "Fire And Rain" features several parallels to the prodigal son among the other spiritually ambiguous songs.

It should come as no surprise that Live Session (iTunes Exclusive) EP doesn't feature any of Mat Kearney's past hip-hop flair, solidifying his recent contemporary edge. But while this EP shows more ingenuity than his last acoustic iTunes EP, it's hard to blame fans if they don't pick up the latest addition to Kearney's portfolio.

- Review date: 12/28/09, written by Nathaniel Schexnayder of

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JFH Staff's Second Opinion

City Of Black & White, though met with somewhat mixed reactions from both critics and the general public, was indeed a welcomed addition to 2009's contemporary pop releases. Recording a live session for iTunes, Kearney introduces us to more held-back renditions of favorites from City Of Black & White, plus the hit "Nothing Left To Lose" from Kearney's last record and a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark." The new "unplugged" approach Kearney implements works well to a degree, however, the new tracks don't deviate enough from the originals to warrant seeking out these new versions. Kearney's vocal style here is very consistent with the originals, but most tracks are the exact same instrumentally minus either a faster tempo or the drum section. Fellow singer/songwriter Diane Birch is featured on two tracks, but her inclusion does very little to make the tracks unique. On the other hand, both "Dancing In The Dark" and "Nothing Left To Lose" are much a contrast from the original takes with their slow, gentle atmospheres, making these songs the real treasures of the EP. Overall, this project will probably please any hardcore fan of Mr. Kearney, but save for the last two tracks mentioned, one won't miss much passing this EP up. - Roger Gelwicks


. Record Label: Aware Records
. Album length: 7 tracks: 30 minutes, 1 second
. Street Date: December 8, 2009
. Buy It: iTunes

  1. All I Have (feat. Diane Birch) [Live] (5:00)
  2. Here We Go (Live) (4:42)
  3. Fire & Rain (Live) (3:53)
  4. Dancing In the Dark (Live) (3:57)
  5. City of Black & White (feat. Diane Birch) [Live] (3:58)
  6. Closer to Love (Live) (3:43)
  7. Nothing Left to Lose (Live) (4:50)



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