On the playlist: John Denver redux
ASPEN – When it was announced in autumn that the annual Tribute to John Denver concerts at the Wheeler Opera House were coming to a close, even the most devout Denver fans probably gave a good-natured shrug and admitted it had been a good run. For 15 years, since the 1997 death of the Aspen icon, bandmates and writing partners had been gathering to sing Denver’s songs, tell stories and keep the music alive. All good things come to an end.Probably more unexpected than the end of the tribute concerts was the notion that Denver’s songs would be heading to a bigger stage soon. But last fall came the announcement that a tribute album, “The Music Is You,” was scheduled for release on ATO Records. And unlike a previous Denver tribute album, 2000’s “Take Me Home,” which featured acts like Granfaloon Bus and Sunshine Club, the new recording lined up top-shelf artists including Dave Matthews, Lucinda Williams and My Morning Jacket.”The Music Is You” gets released Tuesday, and as much as any of the tribute concerts in Denver’s hometown, the album should make sure that Denver’s songs get extended life. Matthews gives a gritty, low-key reading of “Take Me to Tomorrow”; My Morning Jacket’s slow take on “Leaving on a Jet Plane” captures all of the song’s weariness; Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros inject backwoods gospel into “Wooden Indian.” While the album leans toward the folkier side, with contributions from Lucinda Williams (“This Old Guitar”), Brett Dennen (“Annie’s Song”) and Mary Chapin Carpenter (“I Guess He’d Rather Be in Colorado”), there is more than a touch of the eclectic. At the far end are J Mascis and Sharon Von Etten doing a version of “Prisoners” that doesn’t skimp on the noisy guitar.While the musicians take liberties with the sounds, the visuals are nothing but respectful. The album cover is a big photo of John, smiling easily, hair shaggy and blond, tinted round glasses in place. All that’s missing is a cartoon bubble with “Fa-a-a-a-r out!” in firstname.lastname@example.org
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