Hot on the heels of his current UK tour Jarrod Dickenson has announced the release of a sublime EP "Under A Texas Sky" . In his own words "I recorded my own renditions of classic songs by rock and roll crooner, Roy Orbison, the soulful R&B singer, Esther Phillips, the red-headed stranger known as Willie Nelson, Americana trailblazer, Doug Sahm and the master songsmith, Guy Clark." but in truth there is so much more to it than that. These are not just renditions they are reinterpretations, revitalising songs to give them a whole new lease of life to a modern audience though retaining the spirit of the originals.
Opening with the current single one of Roy Orbison's earlier tunes, "Uptown", Jarrod's version has a Texas bar room blues feel to it - you can almost smell the bourbon!. Roy's version is a bit of a slow paced rock n roll effort and it seems an unlikely career choice for him whereas Jarrod has always had the innate ability to take on the persona of the down at heel working man so the tale of the bellhop with aspirations of "Penthouse number 3" and the lady that lives there fits him like glove. Jarrod's version has glorious keyboards running through it that make it hugely enjoyable and a great introduction to the EP.
Esther Phillips original of "Try Me" is one of those songs that deserves a wider audience, filled with a luscious horn section and initially it seems a hard song to better. Jarrod's version comes again awash with a lovely keyboard sound and a built around the guitar riff. There is a torrid undercurrent in both versions with "Souls on fire" and "Strong desire".
"Seven Spanish Angels" has numerous covers but it originates with Willie Nelson and Ray Charles on their 1984 album "Friendship". It is a classic western tale of an outlaw and his girl on the run from the posse chasing them. In the four minutes of the song he is shot dead and then she bereft chooses death by posse by pointing a knowingly empty gun at them. Jarrod has the classic Storytellers voice so again this tale of great pathos suits him well. A real ensemble piece, sounding very much like a one take with everyone in the room, has an almost spiritual feel to it as everyone joins in on backing vocals.
Doug Sahm's blues version seems to be the entrance point for Jarrod for "I'm Glad For Your Sake (But Sorry For Mine)" but it has been around since at least 1937 with the big band jazz styling of Andy Kirk. It's a testament to the song that it come out sounding strong no matter who covers it. This probably sees Jarrod at his crooning best.
We saw Jarrod at the London Palladium when he was supporting Don McLean, where upon getting a muted response to the question of whether anyone knew Guy Clark, immediately set it as homework for the audience to do on their return home. If I was to hazard a guess I would say that "Dublin Blues" is the song of the five that means the most to Jarrod, Primarily it is just Jarrod and his acoustic guitar, for much of the song, the band are there but muted, still playing a key role but to a much lesser extent than on the other songs in the collection. Both versions have a plaintive feel to them and are Texas troubadours at their finest.
This is a fitting tribute to the Stars of Texas made with care and attention down to the sleeve with little portraits of the inspirations of the record in the word Texas. For lovers of Texan songwriting at it's best - this is an essential purchase.
Under a Texas Sky is available as of Mar 8th