HERE'S TO HAZELWOOD! 

HERE'S TO HAZELWOOD!

Total Lee!

The Songs of Lee Hazelwood

Various Artists

(Astralwerks)

Not all tribute albums are nightmarish messes. The second volume of the Rolling Stones tribute series, Uncut, had some good stuff by Lambchop and the MC5. And there was that version of Springsteen's Nebraska a couple of years ago on Sub Pop that featured great covers of "Highway Patrolman" and "Downbound Train" by Dar Williams and Raul Malo of the Mavericks, respectively. That record also featured some embarrassing denture whistle from Johnny Cash on "I'm on Fire." (Yes, he's an icon and very ill, but a little Poli-Grip would affix that upper plate securely.)

Lee Hazelwood has always been a storyteller in his songs, kind of like a non-redneck Tom T. Hall with a functioning neocortex. (Hazelwood has lived rough, but he's never been as scary-looking as Hall, who resembles a golem at times.) And in recent years, he has experienced a resurgence in popularity. The stuff he recorded with Nancy Sinatra and on his own 30-plus years ago now sounds cool and ironic instead of corny and overblown (as his material did to this reviewer at the time).

So it was inevitable that a Lee Hazelwood tribute record would eventually appear. Several of these remakes best the Hazelwood originals, which is not that difficult a task, considering how tame and dated much of Hazelwood's recorded work sounds today. Tribute compiler Wyndham Wallace deserves credit for picking mainly moody and somewhat obscure Hazelwood tunes to redo here. The matching of contributors with songs is mostly genius, particularly professional Southern geek Johnny Dowd's take on Hazelwood's California hippie-lifestyle anthem "Sleep in the Grass." Dowd's "I'm gonna cut you" shtick finds its proper application on this grotesque remake.

However, K Records majordomo/head doofus Calvin Johnson stinks up the joint with a truly horrific reading of "Sand," on which he adopts an affected baritone croak (as bad as Cash's denture whistle). Not too many big names here (unless you count Evan Dando and Jarvis Crocker as biz heavyweights), but the use of less well known artists emphasizes the songs over big-name singers. Total Lee is that rarest of creatures, a tribute record that improves on the originals. --

Grade: B+

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

We Saw You

Military Masquerade, Maciel's Highland, The Gray Canary

Hungry Memphis

Beer Bracket Challenge, Round 2

Blurb

Tayari Jones Reading at the Orpheum

Hungry Memphis

Muddy's Bake Shop Turns 10

Tiger Blue

Tigers 91, #23 Houston 85

Intermission Impossible

Dead in the Water: New Moon's "Eurydice" is wet and wonderful

Politics Beat Blog

Alexander Touts Tax Bill, Offers Proposals on Guns and Immigration

News Blog

Memphis Pets of the Week

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Flyer Staff

Readers also liked…

  • Support Local Music

    Music Editor Chris Shaw says farewell.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Solo Survivor

    Ray Wylie Hubbard: Outlaw Country to Country Blues.
    • Apr 18, 2017
  • Snowglobe Returns

    Brad Postlethwaite on his band’s first show in four years.
    • Jul 28, 2016
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation