I was watching a music video show one day in 1998 when I saw an incredible female rocker doing a gritty song called Undo Me. When the video ended and I saw the artist was Jennifer Knapp and the album was called Kansas I drove to my local bookstore and bought the CD. I didn't really care if the rest of the CD was any good--I had to have Undo Me. In a bit of deja vu, Live is worth buying for Undo Me alone. This almost-seven minute version sets up the song with a sizzling blues rock intro that features Jen wailing "I messed up again." There's more passion here in two minutes than most artists manage in their careers.
Let's back up a little--Knapp's Kansas was an amazing debut, firmly establishing her as the female singer/songwriter in Christian rock music. Others were popular, but either didn't write their own material, or were just too sweet, pop, or manufactured. Knapp had the gritty voice and passion to come across as a believably authentic rocker. Lay it Down and The Way I Am followed over the next three years, but by 2002 she tired of the grind and vanished. Officially on hiatus, she hasn't done a concert or given an interview for the past three years. We can only hope that she's written some phenomenal songs that will someday be released. In the meantime, we have a surprise live album half a decade after her last studio project.
Producer Mark Lee Townsend (Relient K) played lead guitar on Knapp's first headlining tour in 2001 and recorded a handful of shows to make a souvenir CD for the band. The tapes were lost before anything was done, but in 2005 someone picked up a box of old t-shirts and found the tapes. Gotee decided to release a raw live album with no studio overdubs. Townsend listened to all of the shows, picked the best songs, and put together this 13-song collection from four shows.
I was expecting just another Jennifer Knapp collection with a little crowd noise and patter between songs. What I didn't expect was the rocking guitar work from Townsend, supported by a great rhythm section of Tony Lucido on bass and Derek Wyatt on drums. This album has a kick to it, and the little flaws just make it all that more authentic. I get sick of sugary polished fluff music with the substance of cotton candy--Jennifer Knapp might kick you in the head with army boots, but she certainly won't feed you cotton candy.
Live is a must-have for Jennifer Knapp fans, or anyone else who likes female singer/songwriters who know how to rock out.
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