Sunday, April 22, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Review: Dave Matthews, Train on sublime John Denver tribute album

With his bookwormy specs, moppish 'do and Rocky Mountain high-lonesome vocal, John Denver was made for those mellow '70s. He was quiet, introspective, touchy-feely. He wouldn't have the volume or the ego to sniff the air at the top of today's brash pop charts. In 2013, Denver would be wedgie bait.

And yet, on the new The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver, for which modern acts cover the man born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., there's newfound relevance in his soft, naturalistic odes. After all, we toil in blaring, electric times, and Denver's earth-first approach is unique, refreshing. Dave Matthews, Train, My Morning Jacket and Brandi Carlile sure think so.

An album of Denver covers makes comforting sense; he crafted songs everyone could sing, a humble master of the melody, a grinnin' king of the campfire. Out of respect for sterling craftsmanship — and perhaps an underappreciation for the artist who died in 1997 in a plane crash at age 53 — a lot of the artists here never stray too far from the source. They dig a sing-along too.

My Morning Jacket, led by unpredictable singer Jim James, takes a solemn, churchly approach to Leaving on a Jet Plane, written by Denver but made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary. If anything, MMJ's goodbye note, which has a soft, echoing effect and just a blur of haunting keyboard, is even more ornate, more heartbreaking than what you remember.

Carlile and Emmylou Harris keep Take Me Home, Country Roads as the same rousing sing-off, including the repetitive chorus at the acoustic anthem's end; the poetry may be "almost heaven" ripe, but wow, that's a great tune.

Train's Pat Monahan sounds like he's in a sobby fetal position during Sunshine on My Shoulders; it's really pretty, and really pretty sappy, so roll the car windows tight when you wail along. Lucinda Williams (This Old Guitar) and Kathleen Edwards (All of My Memories) take their spare, pained cuts personally as well.

There are a few offbeat touches here and there. Matthews adds loopy soul, and sturdy vocal muscle, to forgotten gem Take Me to Tomorrow. Old Crow Medicine Show puts its old-timey honky-tonk musk on Back Home Again. The Lemonheads' Evan Dando turns Looking for Space — infamous, to giant dorks like me, as a pivotal Magnum P.I. plot point — into an early '90s indie rocker. Dinosaur Jr.'s Jay Mascis, adding a jarring guitar solo, does pretty much the same thing to Prisoners. With 17 cuts total, the robust interpretations are needed to offset the usual tingly preciousness.

There's not much to harrumph about here — although it would have been cool to hear someone cover the life-affirming Thank God I'm a Country Boy (which he didn't write) and Fly Away (which he did). I'm thinking Eric Church for the first; Darius Rucker, with Kelly Clarkson taking the Olivia Newton-John part, for the latter. Maybe next time. Lord knows John Denver has enough hits for another covers go-round.

Until then, go find a patch of green grass, take a seat and a deep breath and get your Denver on: Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong...

Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected]

 
Comments
Review: Kenny Chesney goes big all night in Trip Around the Sun Tour opener at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium

Review: Kenny Chesney goes big all night in Trip Around the Sun Tour opener at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium

You could drop all kinds of stats trying to size up Kenny Chesney's Trip Around the Sun Tour, which launched its 2018 run at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium Saturday night.There's the end zone-swallowing stage, 180 tons thick and half a skyscraper high...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Record Store Day 2018: Vinyl lovers flock to indie record shops across Tampa Bay

Record Store Day 2018: Vinyl lovers flock to indie record shops across Tampa Bay

Record Store Day returned Saturday, and with it hundreds of early-rising vinyl lovers hoping to score exclusive records by Prince, Neil Young, Arcade Fire, Run the Jewels, the National and many others.At spots like Bananas and Daddy Kool in St. Peter...
Published: 04/21/18
RIP Avicii, an EDM superstar who helped break rave culture in America

RIP Avicii, an EDM superstar who helped break rave culture in America

Here's all you need to know about this decade's explosion of electronic dance music in America.In September of 2011, Swedish DJ Avicii played a late-night show at a nightclub on Ulmerton Road in Clearwater.By June of the following year, he was headli...
Published: 04/20/18
Producer and DJ Avicii has been found dead

Producer and DJ Avicii has been found dead

Avicii, the Grammy-nominated electronic dance DJ who performed sold-out concerts for feverish fans around the world and also had massive success on U.S. pop radio, died Friday. He was 28. Publicist Diana Baron said in a statement that the Swedish per...
Published: 04/20/18
Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — HGTV fanatic that he is, Spencer Chamberlain sees a metaphor for his band in the ever-evolving St. Petersburg skyline."When you go downtown and you look at the ONE, that used to be a dirt parking lot," said the singer, referring to a...
Published: 04/20/18
New Hot 101.5 Summer Jam bringing Meghan Trainor, Liam Payne, Alessia Cara, more to Amalie Arena in Tampa

New Hot 101.5 Summer Jam bringing Meghan Trainor, Liam Payne, Alessia Cara, more to Amalie Arena in Tampa

A new radio mega-festival is on its way to Tampa Bay.Hot 101.5 on Friday unveiled plans for its inaugural Hot 101.5 Summer Jam, June 29 at Amalie Arena.Based on the lineup, it sounds like a proto-version of the Jingle Ball. Best New Artist Grammy Win...
Published: 04/20/18
Joey Fatone’s hot dog food truck is coming to Plant City this weekend

Joey Fatone’s hot dog food truck is coming to Plant City this weekend

We're still a few weeks from Justin Timberlake's nearly sold-out concert in Tampa. Until then, you'll have to make do with Joey Fatone's hot dogs in Plant City.Timberlake's 'N SYNC bandmate has a burgeoning wiener empire in Orlando, Fat One's Hot Dog...
Published: 04/19/18
Huge concert week in Tampa: Foo Fighters, Kenny Chesney, 98 Rockfest, more

Huge concert week in Tampa: Foo Fighters, Kenny Chesney, 98 Rockfest, more

PURE NIRVANA: Foo FightersDave Grohl may be America’s last unquestioned rock god. He’s played with Kurt Cobain and Jimmy Page, Tom Petty and Trent Reznor and St. Vincent, and he also leads a pretty decent group — perhaps you’ve heard of them — called...
Published: 04/18/18
Updated: 04/20/18
SoundBytes: Steel Panther, Surfer Blood, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and more

SoundBytes: Steel Panther, Surfer Blood, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and more

— Florida's own indie rockers Surfer Blood are returning to Crowbar on Aug. 24, with the Blonde Tongues opening. Tickets are $13 and up. Click here.— Hair metal satirists Steel Panther are coming to Jannus Live on Aug. 16. Tickets go on s...
Published: 04/18/18
Shinedown’s Barry Kerch talks Jacksonville, rock festivals, the demons that inspired their new album and more

Shinedown’s Barry Kerch talks Jacksonville, rock festivals, the demons that inspired their new album and more

There was a time in the lifespan of Shinedown when Barry Kerch wasn't all that keen on festivals."Backstage for the bands has gotten a lot better," he said by phone before Shinedown was set to play a biker festival in Arizona. "It used to be an extre...
Published: 04/18/18