Back in May 2021, Fountains of Wayne guitarist Jody Porter organized a tribute to his late bandmate Adam Schlesinger. Adam Schlesinger, A Music Celebration featured, among many others, Courtney Love, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook, Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba, Sean Ono Lennon, and a reunion of Schlesinger’s supergroup Tinted Windows. At the time, it was a paid livestream to raise money for musician charity MusiCares and then-closed NYC venue Bowery Electric, but now the full thing is up on YouTube. It’s a tribute to the depth of Schlesinger’s catalog that it’s two hours long and no one even covered “Stacy’s Mom”!
Is it bad form to promote your own tribute? It almost makes you think about the crass sort of person who, say, slaps his last name on every building, golf course, airline, casino, steak, or bottle of wine or water that he has anything to do with. Now, what about if it is an employee who instigates a tribute to his employer? That seems pretty cool, especially since so many employees would probably be more likely to spit on something that glorifies their bosses than to work, unpaid, to create a monument to them.
So, let’s give kudos to Jeff “Jefe” Neely, the “website guy” for Old 97’s, who decided that it would be a good idea to get other musicians to cover Old 97’s songs and to use the project as a fundraiser for charity: water, whose mission is to “bring clean and safe drinking water to every person in the world.” The charity was founded in 2006 by Scott Harrison, a former nightclub and fashion promoter after a life changing trip to Liberia.
The band got behind the project, which became known as Desperate Times, and helped to get artists to contribute covers to the project, which was funded through a Pledge Music campaign. In fact, many of the artists had toured with Old 97’s at some point in the band’s two-decade-plus career, and a significant number are from Texas, where Old 97’s formed. Not surprisingly, therefore, most of them inhabit a similar Americana/country/rock space as the band they are covering. The contributors, all well-respected artists if not chart-toppers, seem to have embraced the challenge. For the most part, although the covers don’t generally stray too far from the originals, each is distinctive and all are of exceptional quality.