Fellow Travelers

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Listeners who are unfamiliar with any of the definitive versions of the nine covers that appear on Shearwater's eighth studio outing will be forgiven for thinking that they're listening to Jonathan Meiburg-penned originals. In fact, all ten cuts, including the lone new original, the Sharon Van Etten-assisted "A Wake for the Minotaur," are so steeped in the Austin, Texas-based outfit's signature blend of heady melodrama and evocative, often explosive, mid-sized stadium rock, that they would fit in seamlessly on an extended edition of 2012's Animal Joy. Billed as a tribute to some of the artists that the band has shared the road with over the years, the aptly-named Fellow Travelers relies on material that's far more idiosyncratic than many albums of the same ilk, and if anything, that they are able to pull from a well so deep that it includes both David Thomas Broughton ("Ambiguity") and Coldplay ("Hurts Like Heaven") shows how tenacious the group has been since their 2002 debut. At its best, like on a languid rendering of Wye Oak's "Mary is Mary", a thick and propulsive reading of Xiu Xiu's "I Luv the Valley Oh!!" and an even moodier and meatier version of Folk Implosion's "Natural One," Fellow Travelers makes the listener feel like they snuck in the back door of the club and are bearing witness to one of the coolest soundchecks ever, and while it may not be the follow-up that fans were envisioning, it certainly deserves a slot in every Shearwater enthusiast's collection.

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