For someone who often performs with nothing more than a microphone, guitar, and distortion pedal, Shawn McDonald puts on an impressive live show. At one concert I attended, he captured the crowd by himself, using not just his musical talent, but also with his sincerity and audience interaction between songs. The idea of a live album, then, should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the Seattle songwriter perform. But McDonald has now come out with two live projects in less than a two-year span. After releasing Live in Seattle in April 2005, Shawn now comes forth with Scattered Pieces: Live.
Scattered Pieces also comes a year after Shawn's second studio release, Ripen, perhaps as an attempt to satisfy fans waiting for a new studio recording, but I just can't see why anyone would consider this a good idea. Five of the songs Shawn performs are present on Live in Seattle, and he doesn't play any of them drastically different this time around. The album is marketed as containing new arrangements of three songs, but there are few, if any, apparent differences. Three previously unreleased songs are included, as well as a rendition of the hymn "Amazing Grace," and these tracks are mainly what save the album from failure.
The lone upbeat song of the new ones is "Shadowlands," which features some great country guitar, percussion, keyboard, and a t ouch of signature Shawn McDonald beatboxing. "Pride" casts off selfish thoughts that are no longer needed when one has found love in Christ. "Hush" is the other new song, and parallels God to a father who comforts his child during life's scary moments.
Even with these new songs thrown in, the album still seems unnecessary. McDonald's comments to the crowd are cut from the record, due to the fact that the songs are taken from various performances around the country, instead of entirely from one concert, like with Live in Seattle. In this instance, cutting his dialogue is a hindrance, largely due to the order in which the songs are performed. The first seven are very slow moving, with the exception of "Don't Walk Away." With no breaks between them, some listeners may have fallen asleep by the time "Free" finally rolls around to pick up the tempo a bit. "Shadowlands" and "Home" keep things moving, but it slows way down again after that. And when Shawn finally plays "Take My Hand" near the end of the show, he takes it too quickly, perhaps in some attempt to make up for how slow the majority of the show had been to that point.
Coming too soon after Live in Seattle and containing significant flaws otherwise, Scattered Pieces: Live nevertheless showcases a talented musician who puts on a great performance. The new tracks help keep the record afloat, but could have done better as a short EP, possibly released exclusively online. That would have satisfied anxious fans until Shawn's next full length album, and would save them the extra money spent on what is otherwise not much more than a weaker extended version of Live in Seattle.- Review date: 3/8/07, written by Spencer Priest
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