Sunday Sounds: Iron & Wine

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Sam Beam

Sam Beam, aka Iron & Wine may well be the king of cover songs.  I know I was just singing Jose Gonzalez’s praises last week for his covers, but he hasn’t gone to the same extent as Iron & Wine.

For a long time, I thought the only time an artist did a cover was as a sort of tribute, albeit a self-serving one, but as a gesture of gratitude for making the covering artist’s music possible.  That is until I heard the reason the Red Hot Chili Peppers covered Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” was that Wonder had offered them so much money to do the cover that they felt they couldn’t say no.  And they’d already told him no twice.  That doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s an amazing cover, a brilliant rework with Flea using slap-bass to play the synthesizer parts, morphing Stevie Wonder’s funk into something that could have been one of the Chili Peppers’ own creations.  Naivete cured, I guess.

Iron & Wine does much of the same thing in their/his covers.  Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” is an impressive, meaningful and heartfelt song nested in the atmospheric twiddlings of Jimmy Tamborello, and before hearing this song I couldn’t imagine having it any other way.  He’s covering the song, so obviously he has some feelings for it, but the way he undertakes it, owns it and makes his mark on it is the best kind of tribute there is.  “You made this possible, there are things I know and there are things I feel that may not have happened if I hadn’t heard your song.  Thank you.”

Sundays are for being grateful for what you have, but perhaps more importantly the person or people that made it all possible.  What I’m saying is, call your mother.

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