Damien Jurado / Richard Swift

Other People's Songs, Vol. 1

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In a bit of a twist given the prolific songwriting output of its performers, Other People's Songs, Vol. 1 is a collection of covers from the duo of Damien Jurado and Richard Swift. The two first worked together when Swift produced Jurado’s album Saint Bartlett, which saw release in the spring of 2010. The fast friends made plans to get together over a weekend that August, just to hang out. What emerged was this set of cover songs taken down on a four-track cassette recorder in Swift's home. Each title addressed was originally recorded in the '60s or '70s, but that's where similarities end among a selection that digs deep and encompasses John Denver, Kraftwerk, and the Broadway revue Oh! Calcutta! Jurado and Swift make them all play nice together with psychedelic treatments, such as on their rendition of Yes' "Sweetness." The prog rock icons' already trippy first single is embellished with effects that emphasize the ethereal. Another curio is "Outside My Window." First recorded by the Fleetwoods for a 1960 release, it was written by Sherman Edwards, songwriter of the musical 1776, and lyrics legend Hal David. Wistful and spare in both versions, Jurado and Swift emphasize the bassline and move crisp backing vocals into a cavern as the song's surveillant notes "You're so glad you found him/You'll never once look up to see me/Inside my window/I'm just as sad as I can be." Arguably the most distorted reworking is their "Follow Me." Swift's echoing falsetto, guitar, and clanking percussion suggest a haunting rather than the bittersweet affection of John Denver's original. They even end it with a fade out on lone, harmonized oohs, a spectral call from the distance. Their lush, orchestral folk version of Kraftwerk's "Radioactivity," though, is a near complete reimagining built around the original's deadpan vocal line. Elsewhere, Jurado gives a commanding vocal performance on a fairly loyal version of Chubby Checker's organ hymn "If the Sun Stops Shinin’." Throughout, the arrangements have an organic feel despite tinkering and effects, with a dreamlike expansiveness that foreshadows the sound of Jurado's Swift-produced Maraqopa Trilogy. Other People's Songs shouldn't be missed by fans of those albums or by record-store scavengers unfamiliar with any of the more obscure treasures represented here. [The album was first issued as a temporarily free download in 2010, but received a proper multi-format release by Secretly Canadian in 2016.]

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