New Music Tuesday: Billie Joe + Norah – Foreverly

Billie_Joe_Norah_Foreverly

Foreword: I’ve been pretty busy lately finishing up work for the calendar year, reflecting on the year gone by and the one up ahead, and, of course– putting together end-of-the-year top 5’s. Recently I made a list for my friends over at Charm City Jukebox as part of their year-end series 2013 in 5 Songs. The article is now up for your consideration and enjoyment. Please take a look and tell me what you think- I’d greatly appreciate it.

Now then. While we’re on the subject of nostalgic look-backs at bygone times and themes, consider this week’s featured album selection as a perfect example of this sort of exercise. It features the work of Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and pop/jazz arranger and soloist Norah Jones as they team up to bring us a tribute album to 50s rockabilly and folk darlings The Everly Brothers, particularly the duo’s 1958 album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.

Though at first brush this pairing seems nothing if not strange, it doesn’t take long to realize that the sum of their efforts yields a startlingly faithful reproduction of the original tunes. It doesn’t hurt that the vocal style of both Armstrong and Jones is convincing enough to make one believe that either one could well be a direct descendant of the Everly clan.

On top of the effortlessly faithful vocal quality and harmonies, the album also features certain other sound staples of the Everly time period. Take the Armstrong/Jones reboot of “Silver Haired Daddy of Mine.”

In addition to being moved a few paces up-tempo from the earlier rendition, the walking bass line twang and the parlor piano tremolos give the song some extra character while keeping in step with the period feel of the pieces.

Still, Armstrong and Jones aren’t charting any new territory here, especially given the return of folk music in the American consciousness in recent years, most notably with this month’s the release of the film Inside Lleywn Davis. Once the appreciation of the crisp vocal pairings and smart new-old arrangements begins to wear off, there isn’t much left to be discovered. The album would have benefited greatly by taking even just one or two lesser-known selections from the Everly collection and either updating or fully rearranging them in a more contemporary style.

Of course if, as Armstrong suggests in one interview, the main goal was to help bring the Everlys’ music back to the broader public for new generations to discover, then it’s a job well done. For those both new and old to their sound, this album will charm and delight (plus the album can serve as a welcome holiday music alternative, while still adhering to the themes of the season: simple, warm, and sweet with a marked soupçon of nostalgia).

But for those seeking innovation and not just reiteration of old standbys, there’s definitely a little more to be desired.

Billie Joe + Norah – Foreverly
Reprise, 2013
Rating: C
Listen Now: “Silver Haired Daddy of Mine”, “Long Time Gone”, “Barbara Allen”

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