Sunday, June 9, 2013


It takes a great deal of vision to re-imagine a song in a completely new way. Often it ends up feeling more like a joke than an truthful interpretation of the song's meaning. I've been guilty of this many times. The graveyard of my college creations include Hip Hop versions of Bon Jovi tunes and a mashup of sorts between the theme from Rawhide and Stravinsky's Petrushka. I kid you not.

In contrast, here is a serious rendition of Portishead's Sour Times by The Civil Wars. This is a complete and honest take on a haunting song. One could argue it's merely an "unplugged" rendition of a Trip Hop tune, but they have done so much more with it. Unlike the cimbalom laced, Bond-esque original, they do not emulate the wonderfully disinterested vocal performance. This is a deliberate and impassioned plea by Joy Williams and John Paul White, whose voices intertwine into a single entity with some beautiful phrasing. It transports you to a very different place. If you are unfamiliar with them, I would suggest taking the time to get to know their work. They have a knack for taking the essential elements from a song and running with them to a very impactful place. Their cover of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean is life changing.

This certainly doesn't replace the original in the way that Aretha Franklin replaces Otis Redding's Respect but they have created something that truly is their own. The Civil Wars have a new album on the horizon which I am very much looking forward to.

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