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Album Review: Various artists – The Music is You: A Tribute to John Denver

 
By on Wednesday, 27th March 2013 at 2:17 pm
 

I grew up rural. I recently had to admit that. I have no idea why it took me so long to admit it, but I did. The evidence was there all along – my town had no gas stations or stop lights, a whiff of fresh cow manure and straw made me think of ice cream (we went to the farm to get our ice cream…) and my school was a conglomerate of eight towns. I think it was because I lived “on the town square” that I could maintain the notion that I wasn’t a country girl. Gee, the simple fact that we *had* a town square should have been a tip-off!

As a part of any good non-urban family, I grew up listening to John Denver with my parents. We didn’t live in the West Virginia of ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’, but my part of Pennsylvania was still the same kind of coal country found there. And John Denver wasn’t the kind of ‘country’ music that I professed not to like. So I looked with interested at the new John Denver tribute project ‘The Music is You’.

I’ll be honest, the first listen didn’t leave a favorable impression with me. It all sounds so foreign to the simple lilt of Denver’s music. But after a couple of listens I relented a little. Wasn’t the point of a tribute album to put your own personal twist on an artist, not to sound like them? The other interesting thing was that I was familiar with every single contributing artist except Kathleen Edwards, a Canadian songstress who was completely not on my radar at all. There were even a couple of tracks that maintained a familiar take on the tune as well, like ‘Sunshine on My Shoulder’ and ‘Back Home Again’. My favorite track on the album was covered by Northern California’s Brent Dennen and Belgian singer Milow. ‘Annie’s Song’ was treated very much like JD’s original version, but with the added joy of a ukulele.

What song would I have liked to have been included? ‘Calypso’ is a very non-country roads/tall mountains kind of tune, but I loved that one. And the song that made me smile the most? ‘The Eagle and the Hawk’ not because of Blind Pilot but because of the intensely powerful memory it elicits of my sisters spontaneously breaking out in this song at Bandolier National Monument in Los Alamos, New Mexico on our very last ‘family trip’ before us three girls got married. “I am the eagle, I live in high country / in rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky”, I can hear it still.

I now live outside of Washington, DC, a big city. Do I like it? Yeah, I do. Am I a country girl who wants to be taken back to those roads? No, I really don’t. I’ll still listen to some old John Denver and smile, but keep me close to the music clubs I haunt now and I’ll be much happier. I am *not* rural anymore.

7.5/10

‘The Music is You: A Tribute to John Denver’ will be released on 1 April on Sony Music CMG in the UK and 2 April on ATO Records everywhere else. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Wilderness Society in Denver’s name. You can get a first listen to this album on NPR here.

 
 
 

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