...if any artists are tempted to attempt an album of other peoples songs, they should...
Chris Jones 2002
From the outer reaches of the country landscape comes the muse of Howe Gelb, the most prolific man in alt country (yes, even more than Ryan Adams) and head honcho with Giant Sand. From deep in the Mojave desert comes the latest epistle of sandy wisdom and, lo! It is good!! It's also an album of cover versions which, on the whole, sound NOTHING like the originals.
Cover Magazine contains numbers from sources both contemporary and ancient, and treats them all to new arrangements that, on the surface, seem ramshackle. This is only half of the picture however. Those familiar with the splendid Giant Sand ouevre will know that a cunning methodology hides behind the parched ambience. Just as Neil Young (whose "Out On The Weekend" starts proceedings) has made a virtue of sounding somewhat over-relaxed, Howe and sundry guests (including Grandaddy and P J Harvey) draw you in with their low key approach.
Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" is turned into a mournful lament to rank with Leadbelly's murder ballads. Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" is given a whole new rickety dynamic and Roger Miller's "King Of The Road" is a lounge jazz singalong from David Lynch's dreams. This is an endlessly surprising collection. While you may expect Gelb to attempt "Wayfaring Stranger" or "El Paso", you can't fail to be delighted at his reinvention of Goldfrapp or even Sonny Bono. The tunes remain but the clattering percussion and meandering vocals transport them to a whole other level. Indeed if any artists are tempted to attempt an album of other peoples songs, they should take Howe's advice and head for the weird side of town. Things sure are a lot more interesting there.