“Kort” is Lambchop front-man Kurt Wagner and country singer Cortney Tidwell. Invariable Heartache sees them celebrating the record label Chart by covering 12 songs from the labels output in the 60s and 70s.
This is proper country music, not the “alt” variety that Wagner is usually associated with. The artists that originally recorded the songs aren’t household names, and the songwriters may have written some classics for better known artists, but I didn’t recognise a single name in the liner notes. In many ways that is the point of the album, Kurt and Cortney picking songs that they love and showing the listeners of today just how good the songs are.
Musically the record is first rate, the band (featuring several members of Lambchop) plays the tunes brilliantly and the production is timeless. Listening to ‘Pickin’ Wild Mountain Berries’ you’d struggle to pin-point when in the last 50 years it was recorded, the only giveaway being Wagner’s distinctive vocal style. Vocally the recordings are pretty great as well. Wagner’s soft, slightly cracked, voice being complemented by Tidwell’s more traditional country style. Wagner has lost some of the vocal versatility he had when Lambchop were at the height of their powers but Tidwell is more than capable of belting them out and can sing the softer numbers with subtlety as well.
Where the album falls down a little is on the basic quality of the songs being sung. There are no duff numbers on the album, but few classics as well. The overall standard is good, but it is easy to see why the output of Chart has been largely forgotten if these songs are the best that the label had to offer.
That said it is an enjoyable album that showcases a nice variety of styles, from the upbeat country rock’n’roll of the aforementioned ‘Pickin’ Wild Mountain Berries’ to the soft bar room balladry of ‘He’s Only A Memory Away’. It is the kind of album that you can stick on, sit back and enjoy for the length of the 12 songs, but not one that you are likely to be cherry picking for your iPod playlist.
The partnership of Tidwell and Wagner is an effective one and I’d love to hear what they might produce on a collaboration showcasing their writing talents as well as their singing.
By Dorian Rogers