Covers With Love
A pattern is forming for those artists on the Americana roots rock label Signature Sounds who release stop-gap EPs: they’ll issue a covers mini-album with exactly an original song, maybe two, to round out the mix. Crooked Still did it. Lake Street Dive did it as well. Now, it’s Miss Tess’ turn. Her follow-up to 2012’s Sweet Talk is a seven-song EP that consists of mostly covers and, yep, exactly one original song. Now credited to Miss Tess & the Talkbacks instead of just Miss Tess in the singular, The Love I Have for You EP is exactly that: lovingly recreated songs from a diverse roster of artists such as Neil Young, Randy Newman, Willie Nelson, Ted Hawkins, Hank Williams and Bonnie Raitt. And, yep, did I mention that there’s one original song written by Miss Tess, arguably to showcase the fact that this Brooklyn singer can hold her own amongst some of the giants of country and folk—as well as other genres of—music?
The biggest and best suit of this mostly covers EP is that it shows that Miss Tess and her band can take material from a wide-range of different musicians and put their own spin on the stuff. In fact, this seven-song EP plays exactly like a compact mini-album with little variation in sound, revisionist as it is in nature, despite the fact that the band takes on everything from country-rock rave-ups to lilting ballads with genial ease. It’s as though Miss Tess & the Talkbacks have just taken a rubber stamp to these songs and performed them in their own style, which makes it captivating and easy-going to listen to. While this EP doesn’t have the same playfulness exhibited on Sweet Talk as there’s very little outright individual instrument soloing or noodling to be found, it’s still a strong set of songs, exhibiting a showcase of mainly deep cuts and, therefore, interesting choices, from most of the acts Miss Tess and her outfit borrow from. There’s not one singular highlight, though opening cut “Sorry You’re Sick” initially by Hawkins sounds as though it was a lost nugget from Linda Rondstadt’s ‘70s country rock stylings. Original song and the title track has a very ‘50s doo wop feel to it, as well, showing off the fact that this outfit can shift gears with ease. Overall, with album packaging and design that celebrates seven-inch singles from the heyday of the vinyl format, The Love I Have for You is both a valentine and another muscular collection of songs from Miss Tess that illustrates her reverence for the past and makes listeners salivate at the prospect of another album, be it of original material or songs originally done by others. Well done once again, Miss Tess. Well done.