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Album Review: Live from Montana
Philip Aaberg
Cover image of the album Live from Montana by Philip Aaberg
Live from Montana
Philip Aaberg
2000 / Sweetgrass Music
55 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
It’s only January, and I’ve already found what I’m sure will be one of my top favorite albums of the year! Philip Aaberg’s Live from Montana is breathtaking! Phil has been one of my favorite artists for about twelve years, and this album captures the excitement of a live concert without the distracting background noises that usually creep into live albums. The sound quality of the piano is amazing since this was recorded in the Chester High School auditorium (a reunion for the people Phil grew up with in Montana). Technically perfect, the music is also incredible! This could be “Philip Aaberg 101”. With selections from Phil’s three original albums, “High Plains”, “Out of the Frame”, and “Upright”, this is truly the best of a great artist - essential for longtime fans to see how the music has evolved over the years as well as to hear it played live, and a perfect introduction to those unfamiliar with one of the best pianists on the planet. Between several of the pieces, Phil shares some of the reasons people gave him for why they like to live in Chester. This is small-town Americana, and it’s refreshing to know such a place still exists. It is also interesting to note that fellow Montana native, George Winston, found this event to be so important that he was also in attendance and wrote the most of the liner notes.

All of the selections on the album are superlative, but my favorites include my all-time favorite Aaberg tune, “Every Deep Dream”, which has a simple melody, but there is so much else going on in that piece - a true masterpiece! I also love “Frogman”, which is a rocking bit of pianistic pyrotechnics that I have always wished I could play! “Westbound” is an older song with an incredible new introduction that emulates the sound of a train idling and then becoming “westbound”. The piece itself has also been a longtime favorite, and it’s mind-blowing that as the song winds down, a train whistle blows from about five blocks away! There is no way that could have been planned! Of course, “High Plains” (what Phil refers to as his “greatest hit”) is included with a fresh treatment. “Welcome to the Church of St. Anytime” is gospel piano with a twist - Aaberg says he was combining the worlds of “The Old Rugged Cross” and “There is a Tavern in the Town”. I’ve always also loved “Going to the Sun”, which closes the set with a peaceful, wide-open feeling.

I can’t rave enough about Live from Montana! It is currently available only from www.sweetgrassmusic.com or www.philipaaberg.com and at Phil’s live appearances, so visit the site and place your order! There is no way you can be disappointed with this one!
January 1, 2000