Billie Joe + Norah: Foreverly

billy joe norah foreverly
Billie Joe + Norah
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Tribute albums typically fall into one of two categories: 1) a collection of various artists singing the greatest hits of the honored act or 2) a collection of various artists singing the tracks from a monumental album. Foreverly falls into neither of those as it’s a covers album devoted to a singular release (albeit with the tracklisting slightly rearranged) – 1958’s Songs Our Daddy Taught Us by the Everly Brothers.

The traditional “The Roving Gambler,” which was also featured on the Inside Llewyn Davis Soundtrack recently in a more bluegrass form by The Downhill Strugglers with John Cohen, is a less womanizing version of “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone,” following a gambling addict moving from town to town that focuses on the relationship between the gambler, an admiring lady, and her warning mother.

Lead single “Long Time Gone” is an excellent vocal exercise embellished with Jones’ ivory-tickling touch and even a cute cheek pop and one of the album’s highlights.

While the musical arrangements are pleasant, if a bit unadventurous, where the album mostly falters is in Norah Jones’ vocals being mixed lower than Billie Joe Armstrong’s. That’s not to say that Armstrong isn’t pleasant to hear, but too often Jones’ presentation lends itself more towards anonymity than to the beautiful presence her vocals often bring. We know that she can perform the country genre – and make no mistake about it, this project is more classic country than the more “now” phrasing of Americana as it’s being touted. Her side project The Little Willies and even her sophomore album, Feels Like Home are evidence of her prowess, so it would be nice to hear her harmonizing vocals on more equal footing. There are moments, however, where we get such pleasure with “Long Time Gone,” the more Norah-led “I’m Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail,” and the arresting “Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet.”

The performances themselves are well-arranged and played in virtually all aspects, although as a full listening experience, it gets a bit repetitive by album’s end, even at a scant 45 minutes. Listeners will find it a more rewarding experience to hear this album through a nice set of headphones as it brings out the intimacy brought forth by the way in which it was recorded, at least in the formats it’s currently available (CD and digital). Foreverly will see a limited edition cassette release slated for December 10 and a vinyl offering on January 21, 2014.