Intriguing covers choices given a respectful, energetic make over.
The Cowboy Junkies have a an interesting way with choices of cover versions and have recorded a couple of EPs and albums of them. They have now exported the idea and Jerry Leger has offered four songs which were recorded and filmed live in the studio as part of a covers series for the Junkies’ Latent Recordings.
Opening with a garage rock take on Lou Reed’s ‘What Goes On’ with a guitar solo reminiscent of Michael Timmons, this is a carefully curated set of songs. The high energy guitar rock of ‘What Goes On’ is followed by a version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Law’ from his 1984 ‘ Various Positions’ album. Multi-instrumentalist James McKie switches to violin for this song and adds a slightly middle eastern feel. Leger speeds up Cohen’s version slightly and uses the violin to add a stronger lead line compared to the synths and guitar Cohen used. Leger confirms “We play this song a little faster and with more punch than the original. ‘The Law’ has one of my favourite Leonard Cohen lines, “My heart’s like a blister from doing what I do””.
Jeff Tweedy’s ‘You Are Not Alone’, originally recorded by Mavis Staples, is given a Neil Young style twist. With McKie’s lap steel dominating the song, Leger describes this as one of Tweedy’s best songs and is rightly proud of the version he and his band, which also includes Dan Mock on bass and drummer Kyle Sullivan have delivered. Finally, we have ‘Janine’. Taken from David Bowie’s self-titled second album this is an unusual choice of a Bowie cover, especially given that his label bosses chose the more obvious ‘Five Years’ for their own covers album. Played as a straight update of the 1969 recording Leger says, ” ‘Janine’ is one of my favourite hidden gems from David Bowie. It’s a track off of the first Bowie album I owned as a kid. This EP kind of turned into a collection of some of my favourite hidden gems.”
It comes as no surprise that the EP was produced by Michael Timmins at his regular studio, The Hangar, in Toronto. The live in the studio method is one that Timmons’ own band have used effectively and there is a definite Junkies feel to much of the music here, even if it is noticeably more raucous than anything in their catalogue. Watching a song writer’s choice of cover version is usually informative and Leger has done a fine job with his selections, making them his own while remaining respectful of songs he clearly loves.