• It doesn’t really come as a surprise that slanted Americana-flavored singer/songwriter Will Oldham (aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy) was an Everly Brothers fan as a kid growing up in Louisville, Ky. More curious is the fact that Oldham’s latest album, What the Brothers Sang, is a tribute to the Everlys’ iconic employment of vocal harmony.
The idea for the project actually sprouted from the fertile mind of Faun Fables’ singer/songwriter Dawn McCarthy, who sang on Oldham’s 2006 album The Letting Go.
“It just came to me as kind of a lark while listening to The Everly Brothers Greatest Hits with my kids driving around Oakland, Calif.,” McCarthy says by phone from a recent tour stop in Detroit. “It just kind of hit me: We should do a whole selection of Everly Brothers duets. Will was interested in the idea immediately because the Everly Brothers are a big inspiration for him, and I knew that he had a more in-depth knowledge of their work.”
Of course, Oldham, an eccentric of sorts who’s also known for his work as an actor, wasn’t going to make a typical covers record — What the Brothers Sang largely stays away from the big hits in favor of deeper cuts from the Everlys’ later recordings. Oldham and McCarthy holed up in Nashville with a crack collection of session musicians to turn out interpretations that range from the slow-burn Country of “Breakdown” to the jaunty Folk of “Milk Train” to the vaguely rockin’ “Somebody Help Me,” which sounds like something a less self-important Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt might have yielded back in the 1970s.
McCarthy, who toured with Oldham behind The Letting Go, is happy to be back on the road with her friend and creative co-conspirator.
“He’s someone who is very given to the inspiration of the moment and his own feelings of the moment,” McCarthy says. “To collaborate with him is exciting because it’s very much unpredictable. And I just think he’s an incredible wordsmith and turner of a phrase. I call him The Kentucky Bard.”
She’s just as happy to be playing tribute to the Everlys.
“We’re bringing this material to some younger generations that don’t really know it,” she says. “If you love harmony, I think they’re really worth bringing out again.” (Jason Gargano)
• For decades, musicians have been pilfering their handles from real people who aren’t actually involved with their bands. Groups haven’t just used actual monikers as inspiration (e.g., Lynyrd Skynyrd or Dead Kennedys), but also copped real names wholesale, leading to the appropriation of Franz Ferdinand, Ed Gein, Charles Bronson and Abe Vigoda.
You can add Anwar Sadat — a trio that takes its moniker from the Egyptian President, Nobel Prize winner, military man and assassination victim — to the heap, too. The band’s origins date back to bassist/vocalist Shane Wesley meeting guitarist Clay Farris while they worked at Whole Foods. After talking music all the time, they eventually decided to try collaborating. Eventually, they emerged with some of the songs that would make it to Anwar Sadat’s 2011 EP, No Vacation, and found drummer William Carpenter to complete the lineup.
On its new full-length Gold, the group showcases its caustic, cutting Post Punk/Post Hardcore/Noise Rock that reflects both the band’s Louisville, Ky. roots (the creepy, stalker-ish guitar tones sound like Young Widows) and Wesley’s inspirations, like Wire and Mission of Burma.
BONNIE "PRINCE" BILLY
& DAWN MCCARTHY AND ANWAR SADAT play The Southgate House Revival Saturday. Go here for more information.