Verdict: 21st Century Broken Hearts
For Fans of: The Everly Brothers, Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Jewel, Michael Nesmith, Sun Records
- Roving Gambler
- Long Time Gone
- Lightning Express
- Silver Haired Daddy of Mine
- Down in the Willow Garden
- Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet?
- Oh So Many Years
- Barbara Allen
- Rockin’ Alone (In an Old Rockin’ Chair)
- I’m Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail
- Put My Little Shoes Away
I’d file this record under “unexpected delights”. Last year Billie Joe Armstrong released 3 albums with Green Day (all reviewed on this site), suffered a very public breakdown, and entered rehab. It seemed to kill the marketing momentum of the records, which was a shame – there were some great moments on all 3 records (the 2nd one in particular). Usually the cliché with double records is that there is a great single record buried within – I’d say with Green Day’s 3 records of 2012, there is a great double record buried within. Norah Jones gave the world a curveball in 2012 with her Danger Mouse produced record, Little Broken Hearts. A clear shift away from her normal jazzy piano pop, it finally showcased a side of Norah that she displayed back in 2006 when she collaborated with Faith No More’s Mike Patton on the Peeping Tom project. Honestly, Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong could have taken 2013 off and no one would have blamed them – instead we are treated to a full length duet record that is a faithful cover of the 1958 record by The Everly Brothers, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. That record was a covers record, so this Billie Joe + Norah record is a covers of a covers record. It shouldn’t work, but it does – gloriously so.
The 1st thing you’ll want to do is set aside what you know about Norah Jones as well as Billie Joe’s work with Green Day – this is a wholly unique endeavor for both artists. You’ll want to reach back to the 50’s and the great Johnny Cash / Elvis Presley records released on Sun Records to get an idea of the sound. Clean production, harmony vocals – there isn’t a whole lot of modernizing the sound on this record. It’s all the better for it. “Long Time Gone” serves as a mini-capsule of the album’s intentions – pain lurking beneath the harmony, sweetness intertwined with sadness. These words would sound dark, even if penned in our “anything goes” time period “You’ll see my face through tears and sorrow / You’ll miss the love you called your own / Baby, there’ll be no tomorrow / ‘Cause when I leave, I’ll be a long time gone”. “Oh So Many Years” has a bounce in its step, a joyous feel in the music. If you aren’t listening closely, you’d miss the heartbreaking story of unrequited love in the words “I’ve kept it locked inside my heart / And smiled through all my tears / My darling, I have loved you oh so many years”. “Kentucky” may have been near and dear to The Everly Brothers, but it isn’t quite so obvious with Norah + Billie Joe. No matter, they imbue the song with atmosphere and a heartfelt delivery. A surf twang vibe with these words “Kentucky / You are the dearest land outside of Heaven to me”.
An unexpected sonic delight, this is a record that belongs in your collection. Indie, mainstream, hipster elitist – there is something here for all of us. You can find the record just about everywhere. Here’s hoping Norah + Billie Joe collaborate on a sequel. My suggestion? The Louvin Brothers Satan is Real.