In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.
Vermont singer-songwriter Henry Jamison addresses a difficult subject on his new album Gloria Duplex: toxic masculinity. “When I was in college 10 years ago, we were just horrible,” he told the New York Times on the subject. “People in their 20s are examining these issues in a way that feels very natural.”
Jamison’s gift with melody makes these weighty topics levitate. Nick Drake meets The National on these twelve songs, with Jamison working with major-league collaborators including St. Vincent’s right-hand man Thomas Bartlett on production and Bon Iver collaborator Rob Moose of yMusic arranging the strings. Hear a taste on single “Boys”:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his talents, Jamison knows his musical history. It’s a rare musician at this point who doesn’t choose a single song anyone else has, but Jamison digs deep. No “Hallelujah” or “Hurt” here. He also continued confronting toxic masculinity at its worst, having to banish an R. Kelly cover we once also adored (not to worry, Henry’s substitute pick is great too). Let Henry introduce you to some new favorites below.
Alison Krauss and Union Station – Baby, Now That I’ve Found You (The Foundations cover)
Henry says: “I had this song on cassette when I was 8 or 9 years old and it completely mesmerized me. I didn’t know it was a cover until I got to college and the Foundations version came on at a party. I like that version very much as well, though I always miss the chromatic move that Union Station added to the chorus. I love Alison Krauss’ voice, her fiddling and the whole band’s musicianship. She seems like a beautiful holdover from Old Nashville, though I don’t lament contemporary pop-country as much as some people do.”
Susanna and the Magical Orchestra – Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division cover)
Henry says: “This song destroyed me in college when I was going through a breakup. It still has some extra gut-punching quality, clearly in Ian Curtis’ despairing lyrics, but also in the synth part, the bareness and the clarion call of Susanna’s voice, which builds slowly to the last chorus, where she allows herself the slightest variation on the melody, a falsetto break that pushes the whole thing over the top. I didn’t know what happened to this project, but she cropped up again in my life when I found her collaboration with Jenny Hval, who’s one of my favorite artists these days.”
Sam Amidon – My Old Friend (Tim McGraw cover)
Henry says: “I might’ve chosen Sam’s R. Kelly cover, but that is not chill anymore, though it is very musically chill. As far as his covers go, this is my second favorite. It’s probably his poppiest recording, but his voice is pretty world-weary; it’s a winning combination. Shahzad Ismaily plays some amazing guitar that they tracked at half speed and then sped back up, I guess. And Sam’s guitar is high-capo’d. Many advisable musical decisions were made.”
Sufjan Stevens – Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming (Christmas Hymn)
Henry says: “Don’t tell my producer, but I think that a lot of Sufjan’s best music can be found on his Christmas albums. My favorite of those is Silver & Gold, but this song is on Songs for Christmas. I had one of those nice moments when I first heard this, in which you see that two things you like have been combined and then somehow the combination surpasses even your lofty expectations. Somehow this song was meant to have banjo.”
Sun Kil Moon – Ocean Breathes Salty (Modest Mouse cover)
Henry says: “Mark Kozelek is one of my favorite songwriters, for better or worse. I understand that he is sometimes very bad and sometimes very petty, but I sometimes feel very “Mood” about him, especially when he is talking about feeling high and dry while on tour. He did a whole record of Modest Mouse covers many years ago and it’s pretty perfect, because Isaac Brock is equally cantankerous. The whole record is good, but this one is probably the best.”
Henry Jamison’s ‘Gloria Duplex’ comes out February 8. Pre-order it at http://www.henryjamison.com.