Having picked up a plethora of plaudits for his last album 2012's The Tower of Silence, Steve Adey cemented his reputation for making music of poise and distinction - something that will only be enhanced by the best of this patchy follow up in which nine adaptations of other people's work are augmented by How Heavy the Days, in which he sets the Hermann Hesse poem to a suitably weighty soundtrack.
As a rule, cover versions are a tricky proposition and Adey wisely decides not to over think the process. He reaches for a live, one-take sound that pays dividends particularly with the six-piece choir that backs him throughout - nimble enough to make a sharp turn yet powerful enough to make things happen. Its presence is arguably felt to greatest effect on an otherwise reverential version of Nick Cave's God Is In the House that revels in the lyrical wordplay as it simultaneously seems to soothe its composer's joyful skewering of small town mores in favour of an odd kind of recognition that somehow acknowledges the narrowness of the thinking yet relishes its lack of complication.
The take on Morrissey's Everyday Is Like Sunday is less successful for pretty much the same reason, oddly enough. It's almost as if Adey is intimidated by the material, or is trying too hard to leave his mark on it. Either way, the choir struggles to adapt to snail's pace tempo and the lyrics are stripped of their suppleness as a result.
Far better is the sparse reworking of Rickie Lee Jones' The Unsigned Painting melts into David Bowie's Heroes instrumental Sense of Doubt to pave the way for an extraordinary reading of Polly Harvey's The Devil. It's a brave choice that rewards Adey's courage in paring the song back to its piano and voice basics and conjuring a trance-like delivery from what he has left.
I could have done without the self-conscious tinkering with Dylan's I Want You and there's plenty here to render it totally unnecessary, not least the relish with which Portishead's Over is tackled and the mesmerising delivery of Smog's River Guard that closes out the record.
|Elles Bailey: Wildfire||LosFeliz: Ancestry|
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