Sound — 7
So, long story short, Band of Horses was formed after Carissa's Weird broke up by all the same members… so, essentially it was originally the exact same people. But then the mass exodus occurred in a few fell swoops and now Ben Bridwell is the sole founding member remaining with the band. He is also considered to be the sole creative force behind the band, writing all the songs. Their music is most probably most appropriately labeled as alternative country, though there are elements of indie and alternative rock present in some of their tracks. "Acoustic at the Ryman" is a live album recorded at the Ryman Auditorium, and contains 10 tracks with an approximate runtime of 40 minutes.
The album opens with "Marry Song," which is a good song for setting the mood of this live album. "Slow Cruel Hands of Time" is the second track, and translates to a very sad head-nodding, foot-tapping song. "Detlef Schrempf" is next, and is a song named after the retired basketball player of the same name, but according to Ben it has absolutely nothing to do with Detlef Schrempf. "Everything's Gonna Be Undone" has some guest vocals on this live version and comes across like some older Christian hymnal songs. "No One's Gonna Love You" is a bittersweet love song, and this live rendition is more moody and more bittersweet than the original. "Factory" is another slower foot-tapping track that seems to carry on into the melancholy and moody atmosphere created by "No One's Gonna Love You." "Older" seems to almost flirt with bluegrass without actually committing. "Wicked Gil" carries on with the slow moody vibe of most of the rest of the album - it makes me feel like I should either be sad or extremely chilled out. "The Funeral" is an acoustic version of possibly the band's most well-known song, after they performed it on Late Night with David Letterman. The album closes out with "Neighbor," which opens with some really good vocal harmony for a live performance. It is a great track to close the album out with, and seems to draw the whole mood of the album back a step or two from the brink of despair.
Lyrics — 7
Ben Bridwell's vocals are not what you would expect from what is essentially a country music band, but in the end it works. For those who are already existing fans of Band of Horses you are already familiar with Ben's vocals, but those who are not, if you imagine the vocalist from The Flaming Lips singing country then it would be pretty close. The actual vocal performance on this live album is commendable - Ben's voice was really at the top of its game when this was recorded and he performed well from start to finish. The lyrics from the songs are the same as the original recordings, but as an example, here are some lyrics from the track "Detlef Schrempf": "And take a little walk when the worst is to come/ when I saw you looking like I never thought/ and say you're at a loss or forgot/ that words can do more than harm/ the town is gonna talk/ but these people do not/ see things through to the very minimal/ but what's it gonna cost to be gone/ if we see you like I hoped we never would/ when eyes can't look at you any other way/ any other way any other way."
Overall Impression — 7
Being a live album, we're not talking about any NEW music, and in some cases these aren't even new arrangements of the songs, but we can talk about the performance, mixing and appropriateness of the collection of songs. I do feel like the songs selected for this live collection all work really well for the general vibe, and they are all performed nearly flawlessly. Between songs Ben calls out to the crowds cheers, "Thanks y'all!" in a thick southern drawl which seems a little bit disingenuous from a band that was formed in Seattle, WA, which is about as far from the south as you can get. I guess that is something that a lot of musicians consider to be part of being a country music band. This album is a good "chill out" album, but I'm not hearing any songs stand out from it like I can't wait to listen to them again.