It's a bold gambit to take a well-known song and cover it. In order to assure respect for taking someone else's work, it's best to make it your own somehow. Sweeten up the harmonies. Make it harder/softer/louder/quieter. Interpret it in a different genre. Resurrect a rare chestnut from obscurity--either from a local band, or some obscure band you happen to like. In other words, show us what you've got and prove to us what you can do.
That's why I'm impressed by Arizona duo Nowhere Man & A Whiskey Girl's's newest record, Just Like the Others. It's been a long time since I heard that name; they released a wonderful record four or so years ago, and I never heard from them since--not uncommon when you write about music; bands come and bands go like the passing of the wind, and you learn to let devotion go. As such, it's always a treat when an obscure group like this makes an impressive return.
That was then and this is now and Just Like the Others, with Edward Gorey-like artwork, is a stripped-down collection of songs by artists familiar and unknown, all performed in the duo of Amy and Derrick Ross's stripped-down acoustic style. I've heard of about half of the dozen artists covered here, and probably heard half of the songs they've covered, so, really, to me, only 9 of these songs are "new." Of the 'names,' most of the choices aren't particularly surprising; Jolie Holland, Edie Brickell, Tori Amos, Gillian Welch, and Fruit Bats don't shock as much as the Jimmy Eat World cover. Of the lesser-known numbers, I like the song "Girls Who Wear Glasses," even though I've never heard of World Class Thugs.
Just Like the Others is a pleasant, impressive record, even if there's not an original song on it. This is the sort of record Gorilla vs Bear should cover; this is a record that you should hear. Amy Ross's singing will impress, and you won't care if you've heard these songs by others before. The duo makes these songs their own, and I can only hope their inspired choices inspire them when they decide to make their next record. I'm not too worried about that, though.
Listen To: "Old-Fashion Morphine"
Just Like The Others is available now on 727 Records
Labels: 727 Records, Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl, reviews n