By Steve Graham
Those scrappy student DJs at CSU are playing in the big leagues with the KBCO crew. Much like the “world-class rock” station’s sought-after live Studio C compilations, KCSU has released the first volume of its live in-studio recordings. And the KCSU version offers the same top-shelf production values as the KBCO discs, with more variety and a bigger sense of discovery.
As someone who dutifully gets the latest Studio C disc each year, I enjoy hearing live and often stripped-down versions of big hits. “KCSU: Live in Studio” delivers these — at least on a local scale. Northern Colorado favorites such as Gasoline Lollipops, Post Paradise and Fat Stallion each deliver a live version of a well-known track.
These fit nicely alongside a batch of new discoveries — at least to my ears — of both local bands and up-and-coming touring acts. It was a neat introduction to a host of new bands at the same time, and it reminded me of the old days when I would pick up a Sub Pop compilation because I knew I would find a new favorite — or five.
The first new favorite might be Bon Bon Vivant, a lively New Orleans collective that mixes their hometown jazz and zydeco traditions with folk rock on “Rio Grande.”
I’m a sucker for a good melancholy singer-songwriter, so I was also happy to mope for a little while with Ian Mahan, who lives in Denver but grew up in Rockford, Ill. Mahan used the town’s name for the song on this compilation, which also is the title track on his first album of folk ballads.
The live compilation also includes arresting Los Angeles folk duo Dauzat St. Marie. Heather St. Marie is the main singer. Her voice is captivating and evokes Patti Smith in her quieter, more melodic moments.
Fellow Californian Trevor Hall provides a performance of “Moon/Sun” that sounds like America’s answer to Xavier Rudd. As the title might suggest, Hall brings a lot of spirituality to his lyrics and his rootsy music.
The compilation sounds impressively professional (it was mastered at the legendary Blasting Room), but it also is surprisingly mellow for a college-radio compilation. It’s lacking the angsty indie rock and three-chord punk that defined college radio back in my day. To be fair, there is some folk angst and some blues-rock noise but nothing that would offend squeamish parents. But maybe I am just showing my age.