Little Sandwich Music
Not Just Any Old Covers Album This is a Return to a More Innocent Age.
I fondly recall a time when mix-tapes were all the rage. A friend would give you a carefully thought out cassette of songs from their personal collection—some favorites, some they thought you just had to hear right then.
I was given one once that seemed rather poignant as I was going through a bad romance and debating whether the relationship should continue or not. The lead off song on the mixtape was “Neither One of Us” by Gladys Knight, and every song after was dealing with broken hearts and failed romance, like the whole thing was written to me personally. Needless to say, I got out of that entanglement and moved on fast as I could.
Such was the power of the mixtape!
A while back I reviewed Vanessa Peters’ album Foxhole Prayers, admiring the jangly, rockin’ guitars and the sense of fun she exuded with her songs, so I’ve been looking forward to hearing her latest, a collection of songs written by other people, curious how she would make these songs her own. Cover albums are usually hit and miss for me. An artist picks their favorite songs and plays them either as near exact replicas of the originals, or as completely different versions in genre and mood. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. And sometimes, just because you really like a certain song, doesn’t mean you can always successfully manage it.
Thankfully, Peters has done an admiral job picking songs that showcase her clear voice and love for jangly guitar pop. Pulling off songs by bands as diverse from one another as the National, Patty Griffin, and the Eels is no easy feat.
But, turning them into Americana Power-Pop tunes is Peters gift to us. It’s one thing to take a chance, quite another to pull it off.
Peters’ version of Tom Petty’s “You and Me” is straight ahead and righteous, as is “The Weakest Shade of Blue” originally done by the always delightful Pernice Brothers.
My favorite of these are her takes on New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” which takes a different turn by slowing it down slightly and adding a mix of electronic ambience with piano and tambourine, and there’s also a surprisingly fun and solid take on the classic AM radio hit of yesteryear “Sister Golden Hair” by the seventies pop band America. (Check out the piano on this one, especially!)
I like that Vanessa’s versions of these songs (with admirable help from producer Rip Rowan) is as simple as it gets. No Wall of Sound needed, just straight ahead rock and country!
So who’s going to take up the next mixtape challenge? Whoever it is, you’ve got a tough job ahead of you to match this.
1. Aside (The Weakerthans)
2. The Weakest Shade of Blue (Pernice Brothers)
3. Bizarre Love Triangle (New Order) *
4. Florida (Patty Griffin)
5. Lodestar (Sarah Harmer)
6. Hard to Be (David Bazan)
7. Pink Rabbits (The National)
8. Sister Golden Hair (America) *
9. You and Me (Tom Petty)
10. Packing Blankets (Eels)
Review by The Legendary Roy Peak (*New album due soon!)
Released April 24th 2020