Greg Greenway is one of the few performers whose name alone makes me smile. He is a cheerleader and a preacher, a poet and a rabble rouser all rolled into one. His music is dynamic and uplifting, as well as thoughtful, deep and layered.
As good as Greenway's studio recordings are, the energy and passion of his live shows have never been fully captured on disc. So for those who have clamored for a live recording, here it is. Greenway and his friend, producer and recording engineer, Neale Eckstein, have captured a live performance, from beginning to end, at the popular Boston area music series Circle of Friends in Franklin, Massachusetts.
Marilyn Rae Beyer of Boston folk radio's WUMB opens the recorded show by introducing Greenway as "an electrifying force," and so he is. Opening with the anthem A Road Worth Walking Down from his first CD of the same title, you can picture the audience jumping to its feet with the tune's driving beat and call to keep moving forward.
It's always amazing to hear what a truly gifted singer/songwriter can do with just his voice and an acoustic guitar. Greenway takes the image of a train in motion, backs it with his skillful picking and strumming and his appealing tenor, and takes it skyward in Runaway Train.
Only Greg Greenway can tackle the big issues: life, death and the journey towards both, write a song about them, and then turn that song into a crowd pleasing energizer and sing-a-long. He does just this in "Every Little Day," and has the audience eating out of his hand.
Greenway is well-known for working from a world music perspective. Weaving together a Latin beat, some African drum and a bit of traditional Celtic folk, he sings the lovely, haunting "Mystery of Life" with Patty Barkas on backing vocals and Lisa Brown on percussion. It's one of those songs that's so stunning it takes your breath away - you want to get lost in its melody.
One of the great things about live recordings is that you get a chance to hear things you would not experience on studio productions. One of these treats is hearing Greenway play the piano on You Don't Travel Like I Do. And then there's the impromptu audience participation on Summer Song, and the intro to Don't Make Me Sing, which is dedicated to a first timer to one of Greenway's shows. And then there's Greenway forgetting the words to the song!
The recording closes with an inspiring, rousing rendition of Free At Last, a tribute to Nelson Mandela and all those who enjoy freedom. This is followed by Greenway's intro to In the Name of Love/Pride, about Martin Luther King and his quest for equal rights.
Greg Greenway Live gives us the best of Greg Greenway and makes us all feel like we were there on a warm summer night in a hushed concert hall. All I can say is this - that the world feels a bit brighter and a whole lot better when you become part of Greenway's passion. Go ahead - turn on the music, turn on the light, and smile.
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