Washington Area Music Association's 2008 --POP ROCK RECORDING (Live Returns) --POP ROCK DUO/GROUP (Jon Carroll & Love Returns Band) --MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR --SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR --POP ROCK VOCALIST --POP ROCK INSTRUMENTALIST --RECORD LABEL of the YEAR What's this, two releases in a year? Did Jon Carroll discover Red Bull or something? It was a decade between Home & Away and last year's Love Returns, and now the most reliable sideman in Washington, D.C., puts out another just mere months later. The two-disc, eighteen-song Live Returns was recorded at the acoustically-pleasing Barns at Wolf Trap, with a band, a brass section, harmony singers, and John Jennings (Mary Chapin Carpenter, et al.) on guitar. Thought it was a one-off show, the backing performances are tour-tight. But it's Carroll's evocative grand piano and impassioned vocals that sell the songs, which generally are wistful and longing for something lost - a love, a friend, a simpler way of life. (This is, after all, the guy who won Grammys in 1976 for 'Afternoon Delight' with the Starland Vocal Band, when he was just 18.) There's a Brill Building vibe to the arrangements - check out the gospel-pop push in his cover of Bob Dylan's 'Tight Connection To My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love)'. Carroll's former Starland bandmate Bill Danoff sings on the rocker 'Blasted In The Basement', and Bill's son Owen contributes to a cover of Spirit's 'I Got A Line On You'. (No to be outdone by an offspring, Jon's son Ben gets his turn on his own composition, the slow burning 'Lover Undercover'.) The disc closes with three strong covers - U2's 'Pride (In The Name Of Love)', Johnny Cash's 'Train Of Love' and Dylan's 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue'. It's an unlikely linking, but in Carroll's competent hands, it makes for a suitably big finish. ~Buzz McClain, NoDepression.com.
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