Iconic singer/songwriter Lydia Lunch and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Cypress Grove have collaborated in the past on the albums ‘A Fistful of Desert Blues’ and ‘Twin Horses’ and are back together for a third time on this 11-song covers album ‘Under the Covers.’
In a music industry where cover versions are as common as original material, it’s a safe bet there has never been a covers album as haunting or as diverse as what Lynch and Grove have here. ‘Under the Covers’ is a perplexing collection of tracks ranging from mainstream hits to obscure deep cuts and wet-behind-the-ears troubadours.
The album opener is a story of love, death, abortion, and suicide; a perfect combination for Lunch to feed on. The title track is a take on the 1967 Bobbie Gentry hit “Ode to Billie Joe.” The once Southern Gothic classic song is turned into traumatic backwoods blues jam with Mick Cozens’ harmonica summoning the ghost of Billie Joe.
Next the duo takes on Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ 1977 hit single “Breakdown” from their debut album. Grove’s layered guitar work is a work of beauty and Lunch’s vocals are the most straightforward on the record and she still has the same piss and vinegar she had 40 years ago. She slows the tempo turning Aaron Lee Tasjan’s “A Thousand Miles of Bad Road” into spoken word poetry backed by Grove’s guitar work. In a weird choice, the duo pick John Bon Jovi’s hit single “Blaze of Glory” from the major motion picture “Young Guns II.” Again, the musicianship of Grove on his slide guitar and Cozens’ on his harmonica is aces. Lunch takes Bon Jovi’s lyrics and turns them into a duty cowboy poem of angst and survival.
The album pays tribute to Gregg Allman on the Allman Brother’s cover “Midnight Rider.” Although Lunch’s vocals are far from smooth, Suzie Stapleton’s backing vocals are a beautiful addition. Lunch has never shied away from sexuality and she still can turn up the heat with the best of them with the Elvis Costello slow burner “I Want You.”
Then in a bold move, Lunch cover’s herself with her previous release “Won’t Leave You Alone,” changing the tempo to a slow blues duet. In another bewildering selection, the album goes into a gothic version of Steely Dan’s hit “Go It Again,” then the album closes with a balls-out rocking version of Cracker’s ’90s anthem “Low.”
With only four people credited on ‘Under the Covers,’ this covers album so full and rich it takes several spins to fully grasp the excellent musicianship and singing here. Lunch and Grove have been known as long-time collaborators on other people’s albums, but here, they own these cover songs making them sound like nobody else could.