Foreverly: Jones' and Armstrong's Musical Leap for Mankind
I have been a fan of Norah Jones for years. She has one of the most incredible voices with a versatility matched only by few. Billie Joe Armstrong, with his punk roots has taken a musical leap and landed on both feet. This album is a bit out of Jones' and Armstrong's typical genres so definitely don't come into this expecting her jazz vocals or his punk attitude. Foreverly is listed as “country” and that's not far off, but I hear it more as old-timey blue grass mixed with indie-folk.
As the name of the album implies, every song on Foreverly was at one time performed by The Everly Brothers; and most were also covered or originally performed by artists such as Johnny Cash, The Stanley Brothers, Gene Autry, The Chieftans, and many others. As you listen through the tracks, you will be reminded of artists such as Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, and others from that era of music. The folkish two-part harmony throughout the album is reminiscent of that period along with some bluegrass undertones, made most evident in tracks such as Barbara Allen, a Celtic ballad brought over from the region of England, Scotland, and Ireland and made popular as a folk song here in the United States.
The album opens with Roving Gambler and you immediately get a feel for what you are about to experience; opening up with that folk style tight bluegrass harmony. The next track, Long Time Gone, moves into that old-time country sound that is reminiscent of the Loretta Lynn days. Lightning Express, the third track on the album is one of my favorites. It holds onto that harmony and lets the notes melt in your ears while they dance to a three-four waltz. As Jones drops to the seventh and then resolves back to root, you can't help but listen intently.
One of my other favorite tracks would have to be Down in the Willow Garden. This is a haunting melody set to six-eight time in minor key. It holds an incredible story, lyrically and melodically actually reminds me a bit of Kiva, a neo-pagan group out of Maryland.
One song on the album that you have probably heard before, possibly without realizing it, is Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet. This is one of those songs that has been covered by many. It is a lullaby-esque, mellow, soft song with a familiar harmonic structure, tightening the phrases with flowing, albeit it predictable progression but closing each phrase with the strength of the fifth.
Moving through the track list (and skipping a few) takes us to Kentucky, but not in setting. The lyrics and setting of this song are juxtaposed with a latin beat. I'm really not sure how I feel about this one, but there are some things I admire within it such as the clashing harmonies that somehow pull together internally, resolving themselves into tight chords.
The album closes with Put My Little Shoes Away and honestly, not a better closing song in the set. This song is extremely solemn and just beautiful. It is the only song on the album that was actually written by the Everly Brothers and the mellow smoothness of the track makes you close your eyes and let the goose bumps form. It starts with a capella harmony before the piano comes in to accent the chords in an almost solemn gospel hymn. There is nothing over powering about this track. It is just harmony. Later in the track, you can hear a drone of some sort enter underneath the melody. And then with a final refrain, the album goes silent, leaving you there with your eyes closed letting the chords echo in your ears, if only for a brief moment more. The only thing that would make this track better, in my opinion, would be for a single, solemn deep bagpipe drone, not changing, but pushing through to pull out the 'dirge'-like feel the track already holds and letting the harmonies clash briefly before resolving themselves into that mournful warmth.
I am not going to lie. I am not a huge fan of this album. It has too much of that old timey feel that I was forced to listen to growing up. Also, the overall musicality is somewhat simple and basic. With that said, however, that does not mean it is not good. Quite frankly, it is an excellent album that I think anyone who enjoys the genre needs to pick up. It is incredibly produced with high quality and spot-on performance. And the more I listened to it while I was writing this, the more I really started to appreciate some of the subtle movements and hints underlying the prevalent harmonies and melodies. Although I said I am not a huge fan, I will definitely be listening to this album again. It does have some key songs that I really quite enjoy. If you so desire, the entire album can be listened to at [Link Removed due to removal of video for apparent breach of copyright]. I think you would be doing yourself a disservice to not purchase this, however.
Did you enjoy this album?
These are some pretty interesting videos with Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong. Give them a look!
Fun interview video.
This is a very cool idea. I wish more artists did this.