NORMAN — Album name: Solo Live from the Meisenfrei Blues Club (2013, Screen Door Records)
Musician: Kirsten Thien
Why you should listen: Ask any musician what the toughest gig is. They’ll tell you it’s playing all by your lonesome with just a guitar in a joint where liquor is flowing freely. On this disc Kirsten Thien lays down a troubadour clinic that makes it sound like the easiest of tasks. Amazingly, the recording wasn’t even planned for commercial development. Thien’s sound guy at the Bremen, Germany, joint handed her a stereo mix of the show at evening’s conclusion and she just thought it would be a cool souvenir. The recording turned out to be a pristine gem.
“We had captured this moment in time that already had a special place in my heart and mind,” Thien said.
The Georgetown University business school graduate has a terrific songbook of originals but presumably because it was a saloon about half these 15 tracks are covers. Thien takes the challenge of chestnut “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” and spins it with a personal style that’s spellbinding. Her vocal clarity, phrasing and range are charming at every turn.
“Please Drive” is Thien’s own tune that’s hotter than love in August. She performs an initially languid version here that starts deceptively at an erotic simmer and builds to a climatic boil. Because of the club atmosphere a certain amount of banter is expected between songs but to her credit there aren’t any interminable spoken stories. Typically Thien fronts a full band and probably always will. But Live at Meisenfrei shows without doubt she can go it alone and hold an audience transfixed with just her voice and guitar. It’s a stellar addition to Thien’s previous three-album discography.