When I was a kid, my dad didn’t listen to much music. He liked even less music. He’d tolerate the outlaw Texans – Waylon, Willie; a little Merle Haggard. But, when “Peggy Sue” would come on the radio, he’d light up like he was 16 and waiting for a hot date (“Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty Peggy Sue”).
Which made me really excited when NPR’s “First Listen” series posted a Buddy Holly tribute album.
The project looks really, really promising – Lou Reed, My Morning Jacket, Modest Mouse, Justin Townes Earle – solid bands, decent cross-section of Americana and alt-folk that should be able to do a solid job paying tribute to an artist lost at a tragically young age. However, the execution is far below what it should be.
I’m pretty disappointed with this as a whole. Cee Lo Green, Kid Rock and J.T.Earle provide redeeming cuts; however, as a whole, the album fails. Much of my resistance to the Buddy Holly album mentioned earlier is due to a bias that some things just can’t be improved upon. In particular, Sir Paul McCartney and Lou Reed really let me down. Modest Mouse and the cover of “Not Fade Away” irk me in particular. I’ll probably come back to the album a couple more times because I want it to be great. And there are moments of beauty on here; just not where you’d think they should be.
Maybe Buddy Holly would have ended up fat, sweaty, and playing Hawaii much like Elvis. Maybe. But, in the moment up until the crash in a snowy cornfield, he was the living, breathing embodiment of rock and roll. To mis-quote the “Princess Bride”, ‘There are few perfect (things) in the world – it would be a shame to ruin (his)’. Sometimes you can’t do any better than a straight-up cover.