The thirteen track live release Live at the Yellow Cab Tavern from The Price Brothers Band is an excellent representation of songs from Pete Price’s recent studio outing Department of the Interior. The longtime veteran songwriter and musician landed an excellent venue for the performance, Dayton’s Yellow Cab Tavern, and surrounds himself with a cadre of excellent musicians more than capable of bringing the aforementioned songs to life. He deserves lauded, as well, for going the extra mile and recruiting brass players to help keep the songs as close as possible to their recorded versions rather than adapting them for the stage. All too often live performances veer too far afield from their studio versions, even with the best bands and performers, but that isn’t the case here.
The Price Brothers Band is a band, without question, but it’s also a vehicle for Pete Price’s songwriting. His recent release Department of the Interior blossoms under the spotlight on their new release Live at the Yellow Cab Tavern and gains new luster. Much of this is because of the innate quality driving Price’s songwriting, naturally, but a lot of it has to do with the setting as well. Recruiting first class backing musician, particularly a guest trombonist and sax player, helps flesh out these performances as well. The twelve song release features one cover at its conclusion while the remaining dozen songs cover the entirety of the aforementioned studio release.
“Diamonds in the Sky” opens the set, as it does the album, and it’s obvious the band is stoked for this gig and having fun the entire time. The material often deals with weighty themes and issues, but Price and his cohorts unstintingly fail to convey anything less than total joy. They sound unleashed without ever going overboard. They pull back with the second song, “Common Ground”, to deliver a measured and thoughtful performance that dovetails nicely with Price’s lyrics. The studio versions of these songs reflect thoughtfulness that translates well to the stage.
“One More Time” affords Price a chance to show off his top-notch guitar skills. It is never showy, however, and serves a purpose. The instrumental introduction creates a mood that the band sustains for the entirety of the song and Price exhibits a level of commitment that should make believers of any listener. “Before I Go” is a reflective track that the elegiac, easy-listening arrangement underlines, and violinist John Lardinois emphasizes that mood with his elegant violin playing. The melodic virtues of this track, as with others, helps magnify those elements.
“The Crossing” has an acoustic base that gives the song considerable body. Lardinois, however, is the crucial factor in getting this song over with listeners. His outstanding playing serves as the song’s lead instrument and soars through the track, diving deep, and scaling skyward towards the song’s inevitable conclusion. Price really makes the lyrical material come alive as well. We take a turn back towards interpersonal relationships with the song “Foolish Heart” and it’s familiar territory for any experienced music fan. Price, however, is an unabashedly autobiographical songwriting and his unique vantage point emphasizes the personal nature of this song, as it does with others.
“I Love Soul and I Love Rock” is a sure crowd-pleaser. Drummer Steve Phelps lays down a powerful groove for the song and the song’s sax solo will certainly bring people out of their seat either in a live setting or on the studio release. Closing with Joe Cocker’s classic “The Letter” might be an unexpected touch for some, but the song’s character is in keeping with the surrounding material and the changes he makes adapting the song for his uses helps put it over the top. It’s a final dazzling display of passion and musicianship on an album rife with both qualities.