The thought of an unsigned local tunesmith with one lonely disc in his catalogue putting out an elaborate live album may sound like an exercise in hubris, but in Nathan Lawr's case it's a grand success. Working with unsung Canrock MVP (and roomie) Paul Aucoin and a small-scale army of symphonically talented friends, Lawr transforms the understated, raggedly rootsy gems from last year's The Heart Beats A Waltz into shimmering - but still tastefully threadbare - chamber tunes. Aucoin's orchestral arrangements are lovely and very thoughtful (you can tell he's fully absorbed these songs), and rather than feeling overpowering, the strings, clarinets and vibraphone emphasize the strength of Lawr's songwriting. The recording quality is decent, if not stellar, and while there's a surfeit of applause interludes, it's nice to hear cheers for such a humbly talented guy.
Nathan Lawr hits the El Mocambo tonight (Thursday, December 16).