Out Of The Wasteland
Posted April 17, 2015
By ChristopherThiessen_NRT, Staff Reviewer
As a Nashville native, I had the opportunity to go to the show at which Needtobreathe recorded Live From the Woods, but I chose not to go. After getting about 20 seconds into this album, I realized how poor of a decision that was.
Needtobreathe has a certain element of true musicianship and rock and roll spirit that (though their studio albums are great) can often get limited by the boundaries of a studio setting. With the live amphitheater setting of their newest effort, Needtobreathe is allowed to shine in their most rambunctious, energetic and emotional effort thus far.
First of all, the track list on this album is fantastic. It features almost all of Rivers in the Wasteland (minus "Rise Again" and "Where the Money Is") as well as eight fan favorites from the past three albums. From the kickoff "State I'm In" to the closing encore "Devil's Been Talkin'," Needtobreathe's infectious energy from the stage is matched by the enthusiasm from the crowd. The production team for this album did a great job of joining those two factors together to make the listener feel as though they are experiencing the show.
Part of that experience is getting to hear Bear talk about some of the background of the songs, sharing personal stories about the band. Particularly before "Brother" and "Wasteland," we get to hear the stories of how Needtobreathe has gone through some rough spots recently and how those times have been overcome. The vulnerability and openness of Bear's talks is sincere and inspiring to listeners. From the stories told and the songs that came out of them, it is clear that the band is in a much stronger place now.
In fact the band seems to be more alive than ever before after coming off those rough times, and it shows in their 7+ minute jam sessions on songs like "Oh, Carolina" (a song that I thought was a little sleepy on the studio album, but is truly transformed here), "Wanted Man" (which leads into an unexpected outro of Modest Mouse's "Float On") and, most importantly, "Washed By the Water."
"Washed By the Water" was a good song before. However, this recording is honestly Grammy-worthy. The old south spiritual-inspired vocal performance paired with gritty southern blues guitars and a whole lot of soul make this song a masterpiece and easily my favorite recording of the year.
The whole record isn't Needtobreathe's rowdy southern side. They nail the intimate and worshipful moments too. "Difference Maker," a song Bear describes as a "song about not getting ahead of yourself," has a fuller, more powerful sound and message this time around. From there they very smoothly transitioned into hit single "Multiplied," which is a standout worshipful moment on the album with the lyrics "may this offering stretch across the sky, and these hallelujahs be multiplied."
Basically, my conclusion after listening to this album on repeat is: whatever great things Needtobreathe has done in the past in the studio, they can and have done better live. Live From the Woods captures that perfectly.
Needtobreathe has proven time and again that they are a force in the music industry. They have proven that they have come out of the "wasteland" they talk about having encountered. Never has this been so apparent as it is after this release. Their ability to take what they do in the studio and produce it on the stage in a richer, more emotional and more musically outstanding way blows me away. I can honestly say that this is my favorite work of theirs thus far and that every single song on the album is improved from its original. If the reason for this album was to persuade listeners to go see a show, I'm sold ten times over.
Song to Download Now:
"Washed By The Water" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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