The New Classic
More than just a cute concept, Shearwater's covers album is a celebration of pals and life in general.
The Texan country-rockers' lead man Jonathan Meiburg envisaged ninth album Fellow Travelers as a stopgap between more concentrated efforts, where he could cover songs by bands he'd toured with over the last decade and pay tribute to that special relationship, but it's handled with such care and attention that it easily stands comparison with more fully realised Shearwater releases.
The neat gimmick is that Meiburg invited the artists covered to play on the album, but not on their own songs. Not that this is something you'd notice. What prevails is Meiburg's own style, as he turns St Vincent's Cheerleader into a chunky, cushioned, spine-tingling anthem and dials down Coldplay's Hurts Like Heaven until it becomes a soul-searching ballad. Meiburg's voice is clear and affecting, almost choirboy-like on A Wake For The Minotaur but tense and strained on F***ed Up Life. He inhabits other people's songs.
This devotion runs to intriguing arrangements including a jazz-folk flow on Wye Oak's Mary Is Mary and a sonorous, ambient take on David Thomas Broughton's Ambiguity. Only Folk Implosion's indie groove Natural One is near enough untouched but maybe Meiburg just loves it that much. Then again, that's the feeling you get throughout.