Billie Joe Armstrong + Norah Jones – Foreverly ( 2013)

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I have to say, I did not see this coming. Billy Joe Armstrong, lead instigator of Green Day, teams up with Norah Jones to revisit an Every Brothers album? C’mon, you’re kidding me, right? That was my reaction last week when news of this collaboration came my way. Nope, Foreverly is no-foolin’…and it’s surprisingly good.

So the word is that Billie Joe came across a copy of Songs Our Daddy Taught Us while digging through some vinyl bins. This was a collection of tradition songs put out by the Everly Brothers. Billie Joe got the idea that it would be interesting to re-imagine these songs again as duets, but with a female voice in mind. And so: Norah Jones. But what, exactly, would this lead to?

As it turns out, the instincts of this pair were spot on. The original arrangements done by Don and Phil were nothing if not sparse. While a full band setting might have worked here, allowing the focus to setting on their voices was exactly the right thing to do. Even when the sonic palette was allowed to expand, the tendency was to lean toward a full-on country sound.

On “Rockin’ Alone (In An Old Rockin’ Chair)” the lightly strummed acoustic guitar is replace by piano, while the album opener “Roving Gambler,” doesn’t stray far from the original, with close harmonies taking the lead. “Kentucky” moves in a similar vein, with a light shuffle supporting the vocals, which here have more than a little hint of Graham Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

It’s when the arrangement lean more toward pure country that this duo comes into their own. “Long Time Gone” is given a more Johnny Cash (chicka-chicka boom-chick) kind of presentation; “I’m Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail” replaces the original guitars with a banjo and a lot of space, adding some darkness and tension; “Down In The Willow Garden” goes a little bit deeper, with a ghosty guitar pattern and a bit of pedal steel.

Foreverly ends with “Put My Little Shoes Away,” which stays close to the original, but again replaces guitar with piano. It’s a short but very sweet ending to this tribute. I’m sort of amazed at the alchemy of the voices here. But maybe I shouldn’t be. I mean, coming from Norah Jones this is no surprise, but maybe I should have given Billie Joe a little more credit. The stereotype would be that a guy who fronts a punk/pop band wouldn’t be interested in music like this. Clearly, that idea is dead wrong…and Foreverly proves it.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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