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Album-length covers take unexpected directions 

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New tribute works from Mercury Rev, Steve Earle and John McCutcheon extend the notion of covers beyond usual boundaries. Catskills art-rockers Mercury Rev took the boldest step by reimagining Bobbie Gentry’s overlooked 1968 second album as The Delta Sweete Revisited (Partisan Recordings). A modern female singer has been recruited for each of the tracks, and even though Norah Jones and Hope Sandoval may start the album with the most mainstream following, the album ends with a succession of Phoebe Bridgers, Marissa Nadler, Beth Orton and Lucinda Williams (who nails the non-album “Ode to Billie Joe”). In fact, the vocal interpretations are so intriguing, Mercury Rev ends up being the least interesting element.

Steve Earle pays homage to his mentor Guy Clark in the new GUY (New West Records), after previously dedicating an album to Townes Van Zandt covers. Clark’s following may not be as big as Van Zandt’s, but Earle wants to make sure songs like “Dublin Blues” are not forgotten. John McCutcheon, who earlier offered an album of Woody Guthrie songs, had a sparser portfolio to work with in To Everyone in All the World: A Celebration of Pete Seeger (Appalseed Productions). McCutcheon provides beautiful interpretations of lesser-known Seeger songs like “Die Gedanken Sind Frei” and “Talking Union.”


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