Oct 112023
marissa nadler whispering pines cover

Prolific singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler has a long history of covers, releasing three all-covers albums in the last six years and contributing to our best tribute album of 2022. She has a knack for releasing distinctive takes on less well-known songs.

“Whispering Pines” is a bit of a deep cut from The Band‘s self-titled second album. Written by singer Richard Manuel with lyrics by main songwriter Robbie Robertson, this delicate ballad which is slightly atypical for them. But it still gets the odd cover unlike some of the really deep cuts on that record.

Whereas the original opens with Manuel’s slightly detuned piano, Nadler’s version starts with a quiet keyboard, joined by a much softer piano a few bars later. Nadler sings the melody line fairly similar to Manuel, though she plays with the tempo here and there. But the instrumentation is, initially, more limited than the original, just the two keyboards, and the faintest hint of drums with some kind of effect. (The original is a full, ahem, band performance featuring all five members.) She adds additional voices in the chorus, at least one with a delay effect.

As the song progresses, multi-instrumentalist Rob Burger adds more and more instruments, and they move subtly in and out of the mix. They never overwhelm Nadler’s voice and give the cover a sense of starkness belied by how many different sounds you can pick up if you’re paying a lot of attention. It’s a fairly faithful cover, arguably even more somber than the original. It’s very pretty and tasteful and a fitting tribute to a lesser-known Band gem.

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