Videos by American Songwriter
Joy Williams and John Paul White are no strangers to performing cover songs. What’s been so exciting about the songs they’ve chosen throughout their short career is the range of artists they’ve opted to embrace that don’t fit into their rootsy image. Who could have imagined that the duo’s take on UK downtempo group Portishead’s “Sour Times” could work so well? Williams’ vocal take is beautified compared to original singer Beth Gibbon’s more dour (but still awesome) approach. There’s still a haunting air about the track when the track unleashes a fury starting with piano stabs that is further accentuated by White’s underrated singing prowess.
The four-track EP Is rounded out by a cover of Elliott Smith’s “Between The Bars,” a glowing duet where the group’s voices intertwine throughout the song, a cover of Michael Jackon’s “Billie Jean,” and a stripped down version of The Romantic’s hit classic “Talking In Your Sleep.” The latter is driven primarily by piano, although White’s guitar peeks through occasionally.
Fans who have followed the group’s numerous EP and official live recordings will have already heard how they attack “Billie Jean” and “Sour Times” while the Romantics and Smith covers are new territory. The good news is that the former two tracks aren’t just rehashed versions already available on other releases (the VH1 Unplugged EP, for example), giving this 10″ four very worthwhile tracks that fans old and new alike will cherish.
When Legacy Recordings’ massive 47-CD Bob Dylan box set was announced months ago, one “non-album” collection collected two discs worth of Dylan material that was named Side Tracks.” While the collection in and of itself has been only available to this point to those willing to shell out $200, the set has been freed to the masses (or at least those who have a turntable at their disposal) to the tune of $40 across a lovely 200g vinyl set.
None of the 30 tracks on the set are all that rare, merely scattered among a bevy of other compilations (primarily the beloved Biograph box set), bet it studio, live, or soundtrack recordings. Hardcore Dylan fans likely own the material anyway, but for someone looking to go beyond the standard hits to dig a bit deeper, Side Tracks is an excellent place to start.
Recorded in June of 2013 prior to his appearance at Bonnaroo, Johnson who had previously scheduled this gig at the Third Man Studios, reeled off a dozen tracks for those who were lucky enough to score tickets on short notice. At the time, one-third of these tracks hadn’t seen their studio counterparts released, although that would be rectified when From Here To Now To You hit shelves a few months later in September.
Seeing/hearing Jack Johnson live lends to seeing just what a normal guy he is. There’s virtually nothing seems “rock star” about him, although his shows always sell well (even in large amphitheaters). Therein lies his charm: you can just as easily see yourself enjoying time with him at a large music event or on a Sunday morning brunch eating banana pancakes before a trip out to the ocean with your surfboards.
Of course being at the house that Jack White built, Johnson couldn’t help but pay tribute as he sang The White Stripes’ “We Are Going To Be Friends.” To get a sense of what awaits on the Third Man set, hear Jack Johnson sing the warm “Better Together” at a 2009 performance from Paris:
It’s worth noting that if you happen to miss this LP on Black Friday that it will be available at other outlets in March 2014, so it’s technically a windowed release at independent stores for the next few months. However, Jack’s sunny music (and disposition) can help keep those winter blues away that await us before March.
It’s hard to believe that the influential No Depression album is nearing a quarter century in age. In January, Columbia is releasing a Legacy Edition of the album, remastered by Vic Anesini (sure to please audiophiles), that will be expanded to 2 CDs, including a disc full of demos. However, there are two tracks from the album’s sessions that will not see release on the expanded set.
This Black Friday RSD 45 will include two covers, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” originally by The Stooges and “Commotion” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Uncle Tupelo’s flip of The Stooges’ track is ear-opening, replacing the angst-ridden, gloomy original feel with a boppy, frat-party-like vibe. Sure, a heavy guitar is noticeable in spots, but it’s the lighthearted acoustic guitar and trippy drums that drive the mood… at least until the last 30 seconds when the band flip gears to 1969 to pay homage to The Stooges.
For a full list of Black Friday releases, head here.