Music

Crooked Still: Friends of Fall EP

Covers torn from other acts’ songbooks don’t generally sound as vital and vibrant as the arrangements Crooked Still gives to them.


Crooked Still

Friends of Fall EP

Label: Signature Sounds
US Release Date: 2011-10-11
UK Release Date: 2011-10-11
Amazon
iTunes

There’s got to be some kind of law against covering Beatles songs in the Great Book of Musicology. The reason being is that, well, how can you ever expect to top the originals, which are so startling, so good, so epically ingrained in the consciousness of millions of listeners? Topping the Fab Four is next to impossible, so why even try, right? Despite such reservations, the Boston-based acoustic folk-bluegrass band Crooked Still decided to take a crack at “We Can Work It Out” on their latest release, the Friends of Fall EP, which is meant to celebrate the group’s 10th anniversary by offering cover versions of songs such as the aforementioned Beatles track and Paul Simon’s “American Tune”. But I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. Crooked Still delivers a spry and nimble finger-picked version of the aforementioned Beatles song, and take the familiar and spin it upside down. Honestly, you’ve never heard the Beatles quite like this. Will it make you forget the original? No. Does it work as a startling reinterpretation of something that is overtly familiar almost to the point of expiry? Pretty much. If you’re the type of person who feels they can go on throughout life without hearing something by the original deal ever again, there’s a chance that you might enjoy Crooked Still’s take on the song.

However, where the group is at its strongest is when it isn’t actually translating other songs by other acts, but taking poetry and weaving it into a web of its own. The album’s best track is “The Peace of Wild Things/Dayblind”, which is a reading of a Wendell Berry poem. Vocalist Aoife O’Donovan croons a mournful lament against stabbing fiddles and gently plucked banjos, before the track, a little more than halfway through, picks up and turns into pure bluegrass fever with some fast and frenetic fretwork. Despite such a highlight in crafting quasi-original material, the Friends of Fall EP, as a covers album, isn’t a bad way to wish Happy Birthday to 10 years of being in business. Overall, the band shares some stark similarities to labelmates Joy Kills Sorrow, except Crooked Still is perhaps a little touch more melancholic than their peers in the other band. And despite the paucity of original material on the extended play, the group certainly knows its way around a well-worn and familiar tune. If you happen to like bluegrass, and if you happen to appreciate some of the artists given the covers treatment here, you will view the Friends of Fall EP as an embarrassment – an embarrassment of riches, that is. Covers torn from other acts’ songbooks don’t generally sound as vital and vibrant as the arrangements Crooked Still gives to them. Friends of Fall is definitely well worth a listen.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image