If flattery is measured by how well an artists song is recreated, then The Handsome Family should be having endless amounts of flattery feels at the moment. Andrew Bird has chosen ten of his favourite Handsome Family songs and has reshaped them, creating Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of, a collection of beautiful renditions that pay tribute to a band he clearly has a love affair with.
Andrew Bird and The Handsome Family have shared a long history together, not only having grown up in the same city of Chicago, but their collaborative relationship first began back in the 1990’s. Over the years, Bird has featured a number of their covers on his records as well as playing a selection of covers on stage. Bird’s appreciation and affection for the group is evident in the careful and loving way he performs their country and murder ballads during his live performances. It is therefore no surprise, as to why he chose to focus his next project on re-imagining the group’s songs, adding his own personality into their creations.
While Bird’s vocals take on more of a country tone reminiscent of Johnny Cash, his violin loops and guitar plucking add a unique twist to The Handsome Family’s songs. It’s always fantastic to hear musicians stretch themselves by taking on new genres and on this record, Bird has done this while maintaining his personal sound. The country sound marries well with his more alternative classical sound, creating delightful renditions of the group’s depressing murderous ballads.
While The Handsome Family’s lyrics tend to be dark and murderous, Bird’s playful violin brings a lighter edge to their songs such as “Tin Foil”. Bird’s calming vocals and harmonies also turn many of the melancholy songs into stunningly beautiful songs such as “Giant of Illinois” (which fans may know off the incredible Dark Was The Night compilation), “The Sad Milkman” and “Don’t Be Scared”.
Andrew Bird has recreated a beautiful set of Handsome Family songs that truly reflect his love and appreciation of their art. He has turned them into lovely renditions, with his solo deep soft vocals and classical touch, making these songs more personal than the originals. Having released so many records of his own previously, it’s really great to listen to a new project of his that challenges him musically, and to hear him succeed gracefully.
Review Score: 8.0 out of 10
First published for the Au Review – http://www.theaureview.com