Just as Bob Dylan adopted his name from the poetic spirit he emulated, John Denver, born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. extended his name to encompass the wholesome mountain ranges he personified. Denver, the beloved acoustic soul of the 1970s, whose invigorating simplicity extended through the mountain ranges and beyond, might be best known for songs like "Sunshine On My Shoulders" or "Take Me Home, Country Roads." However, his chart toppers were just among a myriad of timeless country tunes that the golden haired rocker made in his time. Fifteen years after his too-soon passing, it's evident his music has not only remained beloved, but it has the ability to transcend to artists of multiple genres.
Today, folk music possesses an incredible range: from the stadium greatness of Mumford and Sons to the soothing cool of Kurt Vile, the category has broadened its sound while retaining its invigorating truthfulness. This makes The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver
so enticing. Like folk, indie artists have fostered such a spectrum of sounds, it's no wonder that they are looking back on legends like John Denver for his unadulterated quality. Denver's co-producer Brian Schwartz picked up on this accessibility, teamed up with Jon Salter (GM of ATO) and cultivated a stellar record. The Denver tracks are paid homage by artists such as My Morning Jacket, Old Crow Medicine, Amos Lee, Blind Pilot, and Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros.
Although it was itself a cover, Denver's rendition of "Leaving on A Jet Plane" awarded him applause from critics and fans alike. Just like Denver, Jim James and My Morning Jacket have taken the torch and magnificently carried it through with their own spin on the classic. Jim James' echoed bliss is illuminated, and it is arguably as precise as its praised predecessors.
As usual, Dave Matthews has no problem rehashing "Take Me To Tomorrow" with his smooth acoustics and free sailing sound. Lucinda Williams' alto rasp decorates a chilling "This Old Guitar." Amos Lee's portrayal of "Some Days Are Diamonds" just add to the glistening mellow folk covers on the record.
The album's dynamics extend to the pop sounds of Train, whose cover of "Sunshine on My Shoulders" feels fitting, light, and definitely not the mainstream Train we're accustomed to. The versatility can also be felt through Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros' supernatural roots in "Wooden Indian." Where their cover feels like a Sharpe original, Josh Ritters' banjo-driven "Darcy Farrow" sounds like the most identical reproduction, in the highest respect.
What makes The Music Is You
so conceivable, in addition to the perfectly picked A-list roster of musicians, is that it's not afraid to touch upon Denver's classics. The late countryman's humanitarian spirit seeps through the covers of his admirers, reinventing his golden legacy for years of music to come.
The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver
is out now
on ATO Records.
"Leaving on a Jet Plane" by My Morning Jacket
"Take Me To Tomorrow" by Dave Matthews
"All of My Memories" by Kathleen Edwards
"Prisoners" by J Mascis & Sharon Van Etten
"Sunshine On My Shoulders" by Train
"Back Home Again" by Old Crow Medicine Show
"This Old Guitar" by Lucinda Williams
"Some Days are Diamonds" by Amos Lee
"Rocky Mountain High" by Allen Stone
"Annie's Song" by Brett Dennen and Milow
"Looking For Space" by Evan Dando
"Take Me Home, Country Roads" by Brandi Carlile & Emmylou Harris
"The Eagle and The Hawk" by Blind Pilot
"I Guess Hed Rather Be In Colorado" by Mary Chapin Carpenter
"Darcy Farrow" by Josh Ritter and Barnstar!
"Wooden Indian" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros