The Lost Dogs... Via Chicago Review
There's something strange about the alt.country genre - it houses some of the most talented bands or artists in operation (Victoria Williams, The Handsome Family, The Jayhawks...) but so far only Ryan Adams and Wilco have achieved the fame they rightly deserve. The Lost Dogs, like most of the other bands, have released their albums with little or no label backing and have all but given up on becoming big stars. Not that they seem to be in the slightest bit bothered by this: over the last decade or so, they have produced a clutch of albums showcasing their rootsy sensitivities, exquisite harmonies and some classic songwriting.
With their trademark gospel tinged style, their lyrics are permeated with tales of haunted gold mines, dying Civil War soldiers and down-on-their-luck cowboys as well as a self-deprecating sense of humour and a sharp taste for satire or political observation (songs like Bush League and Bullet train meant they would never be your average country band).
This DVD brings us an intimate acoustic gig from Chicago with three guitars, three voices and one enraptured audience. The film intersperses interviews with the concert footage but thankfully they have edited it in such a way that the interviews are short enough and don’t really take away from the flow of the music. The cinematography itself is quite low-key keeping with the unpretentious ambience with a tasteful use of B&W for the concert sequences. The on-stage banter is also there in full and none of the goofs or mistakes have been erased leaving an organic feel to the entire proceedings. Despite having probably been filmed on a shoe-string budget, the film has few flaws - it delivers a blistering acoustic performance of a band holding the audience in their palms as well as a small but interesting biography via the interviews, giving us a top-notch end-product.
Though all the footage was filmed on what seems to be Digital Video, the transfer is good with little to complain about. Granted there’s some digitalisation visible on close inspection but that’s unavoidable when you’re filming with DV. The B&W sections give a good contrast and luminosity and look particularly good. Though filmed in a 1.77:1 aspect ratio, we sadly don't get an anamorphic transfer but the image looks more than acceptable when zoomed in on a WS TV.
We’re given a choice between a traditional stereo mix and a 5.1 mix. I’m not sure which one is the most successful as they’re both rather good. The 2.0 gives a good mix making excellent use of the stereo mirroring the physical position of each band member in the mix (i.e. the guitar on the right of the screen comes out of the right loudspeaker). The 5.1 mix uses the surround speakers for mostly crowd sounds and effectively creates the illusion of sitting in the midst of the crowd. There’s the occasional hiss on the track but never anything that noticeable and overall these two tracks are top-notch.
Although simple menus would have been acceptable, we get a very nice piece of work with snippets of the film playing in the background. Very effective and classy.
The first 1000 DVDs will come with an audio CD containing 8 of the 13 songs performed on the night running a little short of 40 minutes - a good addition given that few people want to have to turn on their TV just to listen to the tracks.
Added to this, they’ve added one solo song by each band member and an interview (17 mins) as each band member is in fact a member of another band since the Lost Dogs is a Travelling Wilburys-like side-project. These are particularly interesting with Mike Roe giving an impromptu rendition of Eve of Destruction as well as a dig at 311 over their plagiarism of one of his songs.
We also get a commentary track - this is mostly limited to the beginning of each song with the band talking for up to a minute about the song, what it means and if they like it or not. I would have probably preferred a full-length commentary (then again what can you expect them to say about a concert?) but this is a good extra bringing out some often hilarious admissions from the band (“That song is quite silly and doesn’t make any sense at all”)...
Finally, there’s a picture gallery of Dinah Kotthoff’s photos of the band on the night.
When you consider the quality of the work on hand here, you're left wondering why more bands can't put something as good as this together... The DVD manages on a very small budget to surpass anything that I’ve seen so far from a music DVD and offers the fans something really worth paying for. Priced at $20 (+p&p), the DVD is only available from lo-fidelity’s website for the time being.