Category: Black Prairie

Wednesday Exclusive: Sarah Jarosz and Black Prairie
cover Queen Of The Silver Dollar off the new Shel Silverstein tribute

June 2nd, 2010 — 05:13 pm

Twistable, Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to the Songs of Shel Silverstein – first mentioned here in April as part of our look at this year’s early Tributes and Cover Compilations – is due to drop next week, and the buzz is getting loud, with previews posted on Stereogum, Pitchfork and Spin in the last few weeks alone.

Yesterday, fellow coverblog Cover Me premiered Lucinda Williams’ take on The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, a one-time hit for Marianne Faithfull, and as might have been expected from the the raspy-voiced queen of modern alt-country, it’s a gem among gems. As I noted in the comments, Lucinda’s cover comes off darker and more atmospheric than I expected – the production is more post-millennial Emmylou Harris than anything – but that’s no complaint: the track is gorgeous, and easily justifies the price of admission alone.

But it’s our turn for a premiere today. And instead of turning to the familiar and wonderfully welcome artists who pepper the track list, we’ve chosen to feature the newest, greenest acts on the record. Because we’re very big fans, and you should be, too.

Slower than Emmylou’s 1975 country and western take, less ragged countryfolk than the Dr. Hook original, the newest interpretation of Silverstein’s ode to a hardened but still desirable barfly comes off happy and wry, as befits the man who penned it. Sarah Jarosz’s maturing voice floats over the indie-meets-string-band sound of the still-fledgling Portland-based Decemberists side project Black Prairie, the male tenor harmonies rising to meet hers as if in a bluegrass choir, the accordion, fiddle, and sliding steel string buttressing their tune as it grows oh-so-slowly from mellow and atmospheric to full, joyous and twangy.

We’ve featured both Black Prairie and Sarah Jarosz here on Cover Lay Down before. So it’s especially wonderful to report that their first try at collaboration is a gentle, bittersweet acoustic country masterpiece, and quite an honor to be the first to set it free. Here, take a listen:

Twistable, Turnable Man is great from start to finish, really – how could it be otherwise, with a line-up that includes John Prine, Andrew Bird, Nanci Griffith, Kris Kristofferson, Dr. Dog, Todd Snider, and My Morning Jacket? So what are you waiting for? Head over to Sugar Hill Records to preorder your copy today.

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