Karl Blau chooses to introduce himself with a carefully-selected array of country covers, each taken from a fertile period in Nashville’s history. Townes Van Zandt, Tom T. Hall and The Bee Gees are all interpreted in new directions, with help from Steve Moore and Tucker Martine. Thoughtful modern country. Introducing Karl Blau is released on Bella Union.
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Introducing Karl Blau? There goes my lede. I guess since he’s already been applauded onto the stage I should just sit and listen with the rest of you. Here he goes, he’s Karl Blau, donning his fine country boy hat as he begins to tribute every Nashville singer he can think of off the top of his head. First up is an energised, new-Americana take on Bobby Blare’s “How I Got to Memphis”, which swings into place with tender piano and kindly wooping guitar riffs I’d expect Jeff Tweedy to give me for Christmas. It’s quite nice: Blau uses the production opportunities available to him and makes his cover lush, and even humorous enough -- check those vocal harmonies at the end -- to be worth it all.
It’s a tourist postcard of a record, this: all your favourites wrapped up by Professional Countryman Blau, who introduces the listener to “Six White Horses” (originally recorded by Tommy Cash, younger bro of the city’s resident Man In Black). The arrangements are light but emotive, involving the listener a bit while doing that old country rock trick: lounging. You’ll get to someone you recognise the hell out of on “If I Need You”, which is a take on a tune by the beautiful man known as Townes Van Zandt. Shuffling his shoes (and the drums) like he’s in quiet awe of Zandt, Blau provides a nice, twanging cover for you to hum along to -- even its distorted guitar line gets in line, crackling like a kind fireplace.
It’s rather sweet to hear Karl Blau respond to these Nashville hits: he’s changed them enough, but what you’ll really hear is him listening to them, orchestrating new material with the same sweet melodies and same cosy resting points. “Woman (Sensuous Woman)” has that old-timer sound, located somewhere between harmonies and twang. Since they got to introduce him, I’ll conclude him. I am Concluding Karl Blau.
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