VARIOUS ARTISTS – Let Us In: Americana – the Music of Paul McCartney…For Linda

Album: Let Us In: Americana – the Music of Paul McCartney…For Linda

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Reviver

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Americana McCartney

www.revivermusic.com

 BY STEVEN ROSEN

 By attaching the “Americana” term, via tribute albums, to lot of artists/musical styles you wouldn’t think belong, Americana has become such a big umbrella there’s seemingly room for everyone. And let’s face it; it’s also an opportunity for Americana’s many journeymen (and women) to get some exposure. Room for almost everyone. Let Us In: Americana – the Music of Paul McCartney…For Linda is a good example of going one artist too far with the gimmick. It’s a bad idea for a good cause – all proceeds benefit www.thewomenandcancerfund.org.

 Americana implies some kind of realism – some kind of core toughness, soulfulness or lack of pretension – to the material. And as a solo artist, McCartney best described his catalogue as “silly love songs.” One might also call his post-Beatles rockers as “catchy musical confections,” which have their place in the pantheon of pop but probably not alongside the Band, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams or other Americana role models.

 It doesn’t do much for McCartney or Rodney Crowell for Crowell to prowl around the airy “Every Night” as if it has shadowy depth. And if Ed Snodderly was hoping this album would be a good way to introduce his down-home country voice (and producer Phil Madeira’s fine slide guitar) to a new audience, he maybe shouldn’t have chosen “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.”

 Will Hoge is a fine singer/songwriter, one whose songs have the gruff, rough-edged truthfulness to make you stop and listen. But here he tackles “Band on the Run” – definitely not an Americana candidate with such doggerel-style lyrics as “the jailor man and Sailor Sam, were searching everyone for the band on the run.”

 One exception to the miscalculations is Ketch Secor’s (of Old Crow Medicine Show) inspired reinvention of “Give Ireland Back to the Irish,” which in the hands of McCartney’s Wings came off as cute and bouncy with some clumsy guitar work. Secor, with his committed and expressive singing and fine banjo and fiddle work, turns it into the folk-protest song it was meant to be, although he does have to struggle with one verse’s lack of musicality. And Jim Hoke’s pennywhistle on the track is a pleasure to hear.

 One suspects that many Americana artists approached for this project just couldn’t find a way to interpret the strained songwriting of McCartney hits like “Comin’ Up,” “Live and Let Live,” “Say Say Say” or “Hi, Hi, Hi” and just said “no, no, no.” So the album lacks those solo hits and has eight Beatles tracks. The Beatles’ superior songwriting has long proved itself adaptable to many arrangement styles, so this does work better than solo McCartney songs. But does the world need more straightforward, heartfelt versions of “Yesterday” (Matrica Berg) or “Let It Be” (a female ensemble, including the McCrary Sisters and Allison Moorer)?

 Bruce Cockburn’s tart plaintive voice, always balancing sorrow and regret with shades of anger, does add darkness to “Fool on the Hill.” And Ollabelle’s gospel arrangement of “Get Back” is fresh. But overall, this tribute album just makes the case that McCartney is not an Americana artist.

 DOWNLOAD: “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”

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