Sunday, June 16, 2013

New Releases From John Fogerty & Natalie Maines Showcase The Songs

Revisiting the musical past can be a tricky prospect for an artist. It’s become common practice for musicians to record cover/tribute albums or revisit their own catalogs and re-work older songs, as a way of keeping themselves visible between new releases. Sometimes these projects work, and sometimes they don’t, but two recent releases that fall into this category are outstanding, and worthwhile listens:

Wrote A Song For Everyone – John Fogerty first came to prominence as the leader of Creedence Clearwater Revival, recording a series of now classic singles and albums in the late 60s and early 70s. His solo career proceeded in fits & starts, largely due to legal battles and other issues with his record company. For years, Fogerty didn’t even perform CCR songs in public due to his ongoing legal troubles. He re-embraced those songs in 1997, and has been touring and recording regularly ever since. On this recently released disc, he runs through a dozen CCR and solo classics with a series of all-star collaborators, including Kid Rock, Bob Seger and My Morning Jacket, trading verses and guitar licks with his co-stars.The album kicks off with a blistering version of “Fortunate Son,” performed with Foo Fighters. When Dave Grohl & co. help kick things off, you know you’re in for a treat.

Keith Urban shows up on a country-esque arrangement of the early solo tune “Almost Saturday Night,” bringing the song back to its roots. Fogerty’s sons Shane & Tyler help out with CCR ‘s “Lodi.” One of the true highlights of the album is Miranda Lambert’s powerful performance on the title song, perhaps the record’s strongest selection. But there are other standout tracks here, including “Someday Never Comes” with California retro rockers Dawes, and “Bad Moon Rising” with the Zac Brown Band. There are also two new compositions by Fogerty, “Train of Fools” and “Mystic Highway.” These great versions breathe new life into these classic songs, and make them sound fresh. This isn’t a mere vanity project; it’s an excellent release showcasing some of rock & roll’s classic lyrics by one of its most significant artists. This fantastic disc is highly recommended. Fogerty is touring to support the release, performing an entire Creedence album (as well as some other hits) every night; should be a fun show.

Mother - Dixie Chicks front woman Natalie Maines has been laying low in recent years. After the controversy over her comments about President Bush in 2003, covered in the documentary Shut Up & Sing, and winning an Album of the Year Grammy for 2006’s Taking The Long Way, she’s been raising a family with husband Adrian Pasdar, and working on some philanthropic projects. Her first solo release, Mother, is an amazing album filled with great music. Kicking off with a beautiful version of Eddie Vedder’s “Without You,” the album is a mix of covers and several originals co-written by Maines. She runs through an eclectic selection of songs, ranging from an emotional version of the Pink Floyd classic on the title track, to tunes by Jeff Buckley and Patty Griffin. What’s most effective here is that she showcases some lesser-known tracks, like Buckley’s “Lover, You Should Have Come Over,” and “I’d Run Away” by The Jayhawks. Maine’s voice has lost none of its power or vulnerability, and she’s in fine form. The production by Maines & musical collaborator Ben Harper shades the sound more towards roots rock and acoustic music than country, but those styles work in the music’s favor. This is a record that bears repeat listens, and you’ll like it more every time you spin it.

Wrote A Song For Everyone & Mother are excellent showcases for the strength of these artists and the power of great songs. Both releases are currently available in stores & online. These discs are two of the year's standout releases thus far. Here are links to John Fogerty performing “Someday Never Comes” with Dawes and Natalie Maines performing “Without You."

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