Cover albums are a fad of this millennium. They give an artist a chance to show off their interpretive abilities and taste. Will Oldham’s new record is also an exercise in interpretation, but Oldham doesn’t go back to other people’s songs. He goes back three years behind, to his own album Wolfroy Goes To Town.
Wolfroy is a troubling album for me. Introspective, performed as if on downers, the album failed to catch my attention back when it came out. I heard it, and okay, it’s just another Oldham record, file it and forget it. The power of songs were obscured by what I thought was a weak interpretation.
Now, Oldham goes back to nine of the Wolfroy songs and appends it with two more, but this time his interpretation is incredibly focused and straight to the point, especially the passages with the gospel duet courtesy of Ann and Regina McCrary. The new interpretations reveal the full glory of the songs and now I can indulge.
It would be interesting to find out what was Oldham’s own motivation for going back to the his old songs, but in any case, Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues is a wake-up call for the Americana genre. Focus equally on interpretation and songwriting and greatness will be achieved.