By Micah P Hinson
Jeff Buckley drowned in the Wolf River in Tennessee on the eve of recording his sophomore studio album My Sweetheart the Drunk in 1997. Whilst the circumstances of his death remain a topic for debate, what is clear is that the world lost one of its most promising artists at the height of their popularity. Dreambrother - The songs of Tim & Jeff Buckley (from which this is the single) is a compilation of Buckley covers by contemporary musicians with Sufjan Stevens, The Magic Numbers, King Creosote, Engineers, Adem, Stephen Fretwell, Tuung and The Earlies standing out from the track list.
The press release reads "...Micah's Yard of Blonde Girls... catches the ear as much as any. Not being constrained by an enormous sense of fandom gave Micah the space and freedom to make the song as organic and straightforward as his own work - if anything, less Jeff and more Tim." This lack of fandom creates a fresh and interesting new take on Buckley's popularised sprawling, droning, raw and almost menacing Nymphs cover. Hinson's version is typical of his style, with acoustic guitar letting his deep, rough but mellow vocals and layering of music do most of the work.
Starting out slowly with just a jaunty acoustic and building up pace and layers of instruments, the result is a sweet, summery and twee song in the realm of alt-country that gets better as it progresses. It's about as far removed from Buckley's version as it could be. Micah treats the song as if it were his own and doesn't fall into the trap of just copying the song without imprinting his own character upon it.
However, in doing so he changes the emotion to its polar opposite, what was once morose, dark and slow becomes up-beat and bright. It's a pretty good effort by tribute standards, which are notoriously low, but it lacks both the beauty and folk-noir melancholia of Micah P Hinson's original compositions - it is, dare I say it, a little cheesy - and the character poignancy and emotion of the "original" is diminished.
The B-side is Viva Voce's electro-pop take on Tim Buckley's psychedelic Pleasant Street which is enjoyable but apart from updating the instruments and giving the song softer vocals, it's nothing but a simple, straight-forward cover. There's nothing much to comment upon, it's decent enough and provides a nice contrast to the A-side.
It's difficult to say how good the whole album will be from the single. I'm always wary of tribute albums as there is often too much filler from bands/artists that are "nobodies", and even the well known artists often don't succeed in matching the standard of their own work or that of the original artist. However, with the variety of very talented musicians putting their own spin on the songs of one of the most loved and famous musical families, it'll probably be like the single, not bad but a little uninspiring.