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Scattered Pieces: Live

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Mar
Scattered Pieces: Live
Sounds like … Jack Johnson, Damien Rice, Justin McRoberts, Matt Nathanson, and other singer/songwriters with a predilection for alternative folk-pop.At a glance … it's too soon for a second live album from Shawn McDonald, but Scattered Pieces does provide a glimpse into the evolution of his in-concert sound.Track Listing Ramblings of a Beggar
I Am Nothing
Don't Walk Away
Take Hold
Simply Nothing
Pour Out
Here I Am
Amazing Grace
Rider on a White Horse
Take My Hand

Shawn McDonald knows how to keep 'em coming. Since launching his recording career in 2004, he's not only released two studio albums proper—the sleeper hit Simply Nothing and the more progressive Ripen—but he's also become something of a live album machine. Besides 2005's Live in Seattle, he's made exclusive live sets for iTunes and Sony's Connect store. Without missing a beat, he's now offering Scattered Pieces: Live, his second full-length disc recorded in a concert setting.

Fans are sure to feel it in their pockets, but I doubt they care. Despite McDonald's still-young repertoire, his fan base is one of the most dedicated, giving him enough commercial leverage to warrant so many concert treats in so little time. I also doubt it matters that Scattered Pieces isn't too different from McDonald's other live efforts. Captured during the singer/songwriter's Ripen Tour, it's merely a snapshot of his vocal earnestness and his ever-evolving sound.

But in McDonald's unassuming folk-based world, "ever-evolving" isn't necessarily a demonstration of growth as much as the inclusion of new elements like light percussion, acoustic piano, some ominous cello in scattered tracks—overall nothing too revolutionary. A large portion of the set is still largely McDonald and his acoustic guitar, with very few adornments or departures from normalcy. Fine for loyal fans, but for the uninitiated, it can be a trying listen (if not a little sleep-inducing).

On occasion, McDonald does wax fanciful, as in the jazzed-up "Shadowlands" or the caffeinated "Take My Hand." Those songs are the exceptions to the norm with the singer wailing with conviction and strumming away as if the world were about to end. Truth be told, there are plenty of coffeehouse artists doing that already. But at least McDonald seems to be gradually carving an identity of his own, especially if his second studio album Ripen is any indication.

© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.