In the past few weeks, we’ve seen something of a renaissance in Leonard Cohen covers. The trend continues today, with three new installments in Columbia Records’ Old Ideas With New Friends series.
A.C. Newman and friends perform quite a neat trick with “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.” They don’t change the song that much, although Newman brings a broader vocal range than Cohen; rather, they create a track that makes Cohen’s sound like the rendering, even when listening to the two in close comparison. They create something that sounds like an ages-old folk tune (which it is, in a sense, Cohen being perhaps the greatest bard of the twentieth century); they create a track that sounds like they took the pulpy orange juice of the original and, somehow, brought all of their collective talents to it to present to us a whole, unperforated, ripe orange, peel and all.
Nicole Atkins brings the vocal range to “Bird On a Wire” that Cohen leaves dormant and unspoken and that so many artists have sought to tap into. She accomplishes this beautifully, and her backing piano perfectly punctuates every note sung.
Rhett Miller takes “Tower of Song” and turns it on its head as an alt-country romp. It’s a stark departure from the synth-and-bongos aesthetic of the original, and he owns it. While it may initially seem that Miller’s imperative was to simply drop an uptempo country feel onto a slower song, his singing is a mix of sentimental and sardonic that would have made Johnny Cash proud.
All told, the tracks are wonderful additions to the series and to the pantheon of Cohen covers. The question now is fast becoming, when will we start to see some old friends tackling Old Ideas?
A.C. Newman – Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen Cover)
Nicole Atkins – Bird On a Wire (Leonard Cohen Cover)
Rhett Miller – Tower of Song (Leonard Cohen Cover)