Must’ve Been Live (Mid-Fi)
by Brian Varney
Must’ve Been Live, the first official live Supersuckers album, also marks the second recorded appearance of the band’s country alter ego. Though their first country album, 1997’s Must’ve Been High, was assumed at the time to be a contractual obligation kiss-off to Sub Pop (and maybe it was), there’s no mistaking the band’s genuine love for country music. Of all current top-shelf rock bands, Supersuckers seem to have the best grasp on and deepest love for real country music – see the band’s ever-present cowboy hats and excellent reading of Merle Haggard’s “I Can’t Hold Myself in Line” (from 1999’s The Evil Powers of Rock ‘n’ Roll) if you need convincing. So even if Must’ve Been High was a “fuck you” to their label, it obviously wasn’t some sort of joke.
I suppose it’s these things, plus the fact that they’re such a good rock band, that makes me wish Must’ve Been Live was better. There’s nothing bad about this album, but I really want to rave about how great it is, and I can’t. The same problems that plagued the band’s previous country release are present on this one as well. The first and most obvious problem is with Eddie Spaghetti. Though he’s probably the finest lyricist around and his half-sung/half-spoken vocal delivery works well when backed by the deafening roar of the band’s rock persona, he just doesn’t have the pipes to sing country songs. Nowhere is this more obvious than on “Hungover Together,” where he duets with Amy (daughter of Willie) Nelson. Next to Amy’s soaring voice, Eddie’s just sounds sort of, well, flat. And flat does not cut it when you’re singing country. That’s really the only criticism I have, but vocals being as important as they are in country, it’s ultimately a fatal flaw. But I do want to mention some of the album’s good points. The band plays well enough to suggest that they might have a future as country sidemen and there are several excellent songs, especially “One Cigarette Away,” a weeper worthy of Dwight Yoakam.