Try as I might, I don’t think that this will ever be a regular occurrence – in my defence however, Saturday is currently the one day of the week I don’t work, so I tend to sleep right through them nowadays rather than seek out fresh compilations to badly wax lyrical about. Nice bit of serendipity today though, as this arrived today (ahead of Monday’s release – one of the benefits of buying direct from a label), I’m already awake and it’s far too cold to go outside and do anything anyway.
I must admit I know very little about Tim Hardin, other than that his story is a troubled one and full of every cautionary pointer for any aspiring singer-songwriter to heed. What I do know is that he left a rich legacy of much-covered work, and that my own attraction to this collection was piqued by the wealth of artists lending their talents to this tribute. A general rule of thumb (such a weird phrase to retain in modern language – look it up!) for me when buying non-charity compilations or tributes to unfamiliar subjects is naturally based upon the assembled artists and whether there are enough I like to warrant forking out the necessary; thankfully there is a veritable host of the familiar and the essential, plus a couple of others who I’d been meaning to give a listen to elsewhere and the remainder made up of interesting unknown quantities. So this compilation should be tailor-made for this desk.
Opening with New Zealand’s The Phoenix Foundation tackling Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep in a gently-dreamy sunshine pop style, the stall is set for a collection of covers that tread carefully and respectfully between the
Mark Lanegan’s cheerful Red Balloon exemplifies the spirit of the album as a whole, Alain Johannes’ accompaniment carrying Mark’s upper register along effortlessly in a rendition arranged to accentuate the joy in the song rather than the sadness of the man. This flows through the whole album, with each artist sounding happy to be here, even during the sadder songs such as Alela Diane’s troubadorian take on How Can We Hang On To A Dream, which carries its sorrow more conspicuously than others but her voice gives the song a defiant passion rather than defeatism. Likewise with Sarabeth Tucek’s haunting If I Knew that stays long in the ears after she has finished, and Gavin Clark’s plaintive Shiloh Town – a song that Mark Lanegan made his own a few years ago on his own I’ll Take Care Of You album so it’s a pleasant surprise to hear this different interpretation.
The Magnetic North’s It’s Hard To Believe In Love For Long fits in well with their curious style of travelogue electronic folk, with two-thirds of the collective appearing towards the album’s close as Hannah Peel, backed by Simon Tong, perform Lenny’s Tune as a sparse, Grimm lullaby. The highlight for me however is the Smoke Fairies sultry cover of If I Were A Carpenter, containing much of the same reverential sense of gratitude and additional layer of knowing soul to their influences as they do throughout their This Is A Reflection EP of last year. Pinkunoizu’s I Can’t Slow Down closes the record in beautifully odd fashion, with a bright arrangement sounding almost as though Robert Kirby had decided to rework The Doors’ The End, and closes the curtains on this compilation in an incredibly graceful fashion.
Overall, it works really well as an album in its own right thanks to a great choice of participating artists who complement not only the work covered but also each other in their collective desire to pay tribute to Hardin: nobody treads on anyone else’s toes here in order to be noticed, rather they are united in promoting Tim Hardin’s songs over their own accomplishments, and this has proved to be a great success if my own current shopping basket can be used as evidence. Available from Monday, this can also be bought directly from the fine folks of Fulltime Hobby Records, and if you’re in the London area this Tuesday (29th), then a mosey over to Rough Trade East may well be in order where the Smoke Fairies, Diagrams and Hannah Peel will be present to perform choice cuts from this compilation, alongside a reading from Barney Hoskyns who provides such wonderful and extensive liner notes with this record.