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Encores: Live ()

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The encore, that curious coda to a concert, generally finds a performer briefly back on-stage after having played the songs the audience came to hear in the show proper; sometimes there's one more old favorite to bring out, or a cover of a song by a related artist, or some oddity, all to quiet the audience members and send them out to the parking lot with one last smile. Jimmy Buffett, an aggressive showman, hit upon the idea of playing a variety of different final songs during his tours of 2008 and 2009, then gathering them together on a two-disc set for release on his Mailboat Records label. He begins Encores with one of his old favorites, "Come Monday," and ends it with another, "A Pirate Looks at Forty," but in between, often performing alone with an acoustic guitar, he pulls out obscure songs of his own and some by the peers whose work he favors, including John Prine and Jesse Winchester. The songs are ballads, many of them reflective or even melancholy, which can run counter to the performer's own mood. Buffett is a cheerleader, always aware of what city he's in and ready to throw in a local reference, always leaning heavily on his party-hearty persona. That means, for example, that when he hauls out "Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season," he finds himself singing its downcast lyrics only to shout asides about how he doesn't really mean them, to the point that he finally confesses he must have had a hangover when he wrote the song. On the other hand, he occasionally hits on a tune that perfectly expresses the warm mood at the end of the show, such as "Lovely Cruise." There are special, one-time gems, notably a version of "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," performed with Allen Toussaint at JazzFest in New Orleans, and one of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" at the Newport Folk Festival. The album is at its best with such surprises, and it's encouraging that Buffett seems to have recognized that, if he's going to keep pumping out live albums, he's going to have to play some different songs and try some different approaches. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi Hide synopsis

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