Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bonnie Prince Billy and Tortoise / The Brave and the Bold/ Rating 5.4

Ultimately, The Brave and the Bold is a collection of not-particularly-compelling cover songs, rolled out by two of contemporary indie's most uncompromising and rewarding forces. Or, in short: We all really wish this was better-- less tiring, less dour, less sluggish-- than it actually is.

Dear Overcoat Recordings,

In this modern age of htttp:// WWW. a good label website is as important as ever. In an attempt to research one of your newest releases (and certainly a high profile release) I am surprised to see no mention of the Tortoise / Bonnie Prince Billy collaboration on your label website at all.

In fact it looks you haven’t updated your site in FOREVER. The Calexico / Iron and Wine split was released by you as well, wasn’t it? I can’t find that title on your site either. Please don’t tell me you have become one of those MySpace page only labels. Hang on….I can answer that question myself right now… nope you don’t appear to be there either.

Hello??? Anybody home????

I have searched the Touch and Go page as well as Drag City's and Thrill Jockey's just in case there is a connection with one of these fine labels and all I found was next to nada zip zero. I understand Domino released this for you in the UK but their webpage doesn’t tell me much about this project either. In fact their on-line description of the record is one sentence.

“Will Oldham teams up with Tortoise, the acclaimed Chicago post-rock/neo-Kraut rock collective and the result is this beautiful collection of 10 cover songs.”

I did however find endless information and updates regarding this Artic Monkeys band. Deja- Franz.

The next logical place I searched for information on your newest Overcoat release was each band’s websites and if I may speak from the heart here, the Bonnie Prince Billy site scares me a little but I feel that way about the artist as well. The crazed mountain-man vibe terrifies the person who has never gone camping in me and I find it hard to imagine Will Oldham at a computer at all. Any-hoo…I can’t find mention of this release on his site and the Tortoise site provided me with this so little its hardly there blurb:

"Tortoise will be releasing a collaborative LP with Will Oldham on Overcoat Recordings, scheduled for release on October 11, 2005. The album consists of 10 cover tunes, ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Lungfish. You can check out this piece about it from the Chicago Reader."

There is not a more recent update about this record on the Tortoise site and to further the confusion the street date was actually bumped to 1/24/06 so this above tagline isn’t even correct.

I want to trust the press, read reviews of this record and feel satisfied with the information being spooned to me but truthfully I am one of those people who like to read facts from the band and or label as well. There is something very Twilight Zone about researching a collaborative record between two big name indie artists / 7 very talented people and finding next to nothing but music journalists taking a hack at it.

In fact the best background story I found thus far was this:

“The idea for The Brave and the Bold was first brought to life by a simple request by Howard Greynolds (owner of Overcoat Recordings and the same panderer who put Calexico and Iron & Wine in bed together) for Oldham to record his then live coverings of Springsteen's "Thunder Road." What started out with the intentions of being a seven-inch single - with "Thunder Road" as the A-side and a cover of Elton John's "Daniel" as the flipside - quickly spun into a full-fledged project. Sessions were booked, deals where done and eight more songs were carefully selected to fully embody the concept.”

And Pitchfork reported this as a news story last fall:

"Initially concieved as a half-joke between Overcoat Recordings owner Howard Greynolds and Oldham, the record has ballooned into a full-on but unnamed collaboration, featuring 10 cuts from artists as disparate as Elton John and Lungfish."

I was hoping to find reviews of the record that would further educate me but thus far they haven't been terribly kind and it appears an entire album of covers has been met with the same kind of enthusiasm reserved for live records, myself included.

While the music peeked my curiosity enough to buy it the day it came out, the musi-holic in me still has a million questions like to know how this particular track listing came to be. I don’t think anyone could have predicted a Lungfish cover no less back to back with Elton (yuck) John. Did each band member pick a song? Were titles thrown into a hat? Was there a show of hands? Do you wonder how manypeople buying this record without reading any press will even now this is a covers album? And lastly whose idea was it to produce an entire record that sounds like I have cat hair collected on my record needle????

Ohhhh ohhh ohhh .....I don’t want to forget to ask about the cover art by Native American printmaker Woody Crumbo either, what an incredible choice!

The maternal creature in me worries; why hasn't your label site been updated? Is everything okay? TFM hopes all is well at the Overcoat Recordings camp and the people who make this label go are just so busy with wonderfully terrific good fortune that updating their site business can wait. I know you must love music in order to run a label in the first place so I do appreciate your efforts in keeping quality music alive.

Your friends in rock,

For those who are curious here is the exact track listing and OG artist.

1. Cravo e Canela - Milton Nascimento
2. Thunder Road - Springsteen
3. It's Expected I'm Gone - Minutemen
4. Daniel – Elton John/Bernie Taupin
5. Love Is Love - Lungfish
6. Pancho – Don Williams
7. That's Pep! - Devo
8. Some Say (I Got Devil) - Melanie
9. Cavalry Cross – Richard Thompson
10. On My Own - Quix*O*Tic

I love the Lungfish and Melanie cover, "Cravo e Canela" is delightful, but the idea of this recording project far more inspires me than the music itself. Reardless I still can't give this a rating as low as PFM's, I say 7.