The John Denver tribute album has a raft of unique, musically-gifted artists playing on it including My Morning Jacket, Canadian folk songstress Kathleen Edwards, Josh Ritter, Dave Matthews, Old Crow Medicine Show and Lucinda Williams. MMJ brings a cool, acoustic ethereal feel to “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” while Matthews souls up “Take me to Tomorrow.” J. Mascis and Sharon von Etten crank up the alt-rock voltage on “Prisoners.” Train unloads a trainload of sappy syrupy stuff in their cover of “Sunshine on my Shoulders.” I really liked Amos Lee’s cover of “Some Days are Diamonds” and great cover by Evan Dando of “Looking for Space.” Superb cover of “Country Roads” by Emmylou Harris and Brandy Carlisle, and honey-smooth cover of “I Guess He’d Rather be in Colorado” from Mary Chapin Carpenter.
The standout artists for me on this album are Kathleen Edwards and Josh Ritter/Barnstar.
Ritter and Barnstar do a rousing rendition of “Darcy Farrow” fit for a shindig par excellence, turning the “Whiskey Lullaby”-style-story tragedy into a tears-in-your-beer-while-dancing Dubliners-type thing. “The daughter of old Dundee and a fair one was she/ The sweetest flower that blooms on the range.”
Edwards masterfully evokes the loneliness and building crescendo of tension and catharsis of “All of my Memories”: “It’s much worse than lonely/ There’s no place I really belong … I’m leaving my sorrows and all of my memories behind/ To see what I find/ Somewhere in the shade near the shade of the sweet-singing river … Somewhere to build me a faith, a farm, a family.”
Despite how good this album is it has the usual shortcomings of all tribute albums: it can never be as good or the same as the man who sang it originally. 7/10
Coming up soon – review of “Dirt Road Driveway,” Granger Smith’s new album out April 16.