Amanda Palmer sure likes to do things differently and this unlikely father-daughter team-up should come as no surprise to those familiar with Palmer’s brilliant brand of weirdness. Her father Jack (subject of Palmer’s 2001 angst-dripper ‘Half Jack’) has been joining her on stage for folksy covers semi-regularly since 2009. Their fan-funded album is a tribute to that, to the complex and oft-strained relationship they’ve shared … And it’s jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Recorded at Dreamland Studios, a converted church in upstate New York, the ecclesiastic locale underpins the whole album. In the brittle echoes of Amanda’s piano and the vicar-like frailty of Jack’s vocals. Then there’s the bone-close production, which leaves in every voice-break, pause, and chair-creak to makes the whole thing so shockingly personal.
The covers range from the big-name classics to barely-known gems. The Palmers tackle each track like they’re squeezing the juice from lemons, and coax out every drop of feeling. The Leonard Cohen title track sets the tone with a Carter-and-Cash reverential vibe. It introduces us gently to Jack’s voice, which melds with Amanda’s vocals to make harmonies as haunting as the songs of a dying forest. The duet of Richard Thompson’s biker-ballad “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” reeks of quiet familiarity, whilst John Grant’s ‘Glacier’ resounds like a revolutionary hymn. ‘Wynken, Blynken, and Nod’ is a lullaby for the darkest denizens of Mirkwood, and Noah Britton’s barefaced beauty ‘I Love You So Much’ curb-stomps any suggestion of cheesiness with its naked, relentless honesty.
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It’s not all about the Palmers either. Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Black Boys On Mopeds’ and Phil Ochs’ ‘In The Heat Of The Summer’, both lovingly rendered, are conscious tie-ins to the Black Lives Matter movement. Complete with updated lyrics care-of Jack, they add an old-school protest-song flair to the album, and show that even on such a personal work, Amanda is never totally off the social-activism clock.
‘You Got Me Singing’ is best described as an album on the edge of cathartic tears. In true AFP style, Amanda takes the alarm-bells concept of family covers album and delivers a thin-skinned, heart-felt passion project that’s about as schmaltzy as an undertaker’s lecture on the importance of severity. It might not be the most revolutionary album of the year, or the most exciting, but it might be the most honest – with a heavy dollop of Palmer-patented oddness, of course.
‘You Got Me Singing’ is out now on Eight Foot Records
This Jack Palmer & Amanda Palmer article was written by Matt George Lovett, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo credit : will showalter