The latest from the bearded surfie troubadour is a good old covers EP. Donavon Frankenreiter, whose sophomore album Move By Yourself came out last year, doesn’t seem to mind the Ben Harperisms or the mild derision singing so earnestly about love engenders. In fact, his on-record persona’s so laid-back you sometimes lose his artistic presence altogether. It’s not a great setup for an EP that aims to breathe new, different life into a series of easily recognizable tunes. Bob Dylan’s classic “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” is illustrative: in Frankenreiter’s hands it becomes a signature, sweet love song, which make you slightly uneasy because it’s too down pat, too simplified: love conquers all in his world, but you want to rebut: perhaps he should think twice. Similarly, takes on Wilco and Creedence Clearwater Revival, while charming in its smooth-voiced, acoustic campfire-style balladry, are a little ill-conceived as interpretations of the source material. When heard live, Wilco’s “Theologians” (from A Ghost is Born) is full of mess and power, doubt brought forward through the rising guitar noise and Jeff Tweedy’s emotive voice. And “Fortunate Son” requires defiance, the growl and pointed guitars of the original, to get its point across. Frankenreiter’s songs—covers or originals—are always pleasant to listen to. But this project never exceeds that niceness. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for some vital new take on these six rock classics, you won’t find it here.
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