Firewater: Songs We Should Have Written

Firewater: Songs We Should Have Written (Jetset Records)

Cover albums can be dangerous territory for a band. Most listeners view a cover album one of two ways: the band is trying to experiment and put its spin on some “classic” tunes, or they’re running out of fresh ideas. I usually think the latter. That’s why I was surprised to find out that Firewater released a covers album.

First up is Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On.” This melody features vocalist Tod A.’s in a duet with the lovely songbird, Britta Phillips. While this song is good and stays fairly true to the original, it doesn’t have campy flair that Sonny and Cher put on it. The “sunny” vocals are what made this song a classic, and Tod A. isn’t exactly sunny.

Frank Sinatra’s “This Town: is the next song. While Tod is no velvet-voiced crooner, I believe this song is better than the original. Tod’s vocals give this song of loving and hating your hometown new depth and style. Tod’s raw and gritty singing make this song seem confusing, loving and hate-filled all at the same time. “This Town” has never sounded quite as needy and, therefore, better.

The Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog” is another good cover. While Tod A. admits, “It seems a little uppity to try and top the Fab Four,” Firewater comes awfully close. While the original is a light-hearted pop gem, Firewater turns up the volume and gives it a dirty new sound. “Hey Bulldog” sounds a bit raunchier and a bit meaner, but it still holds together as a great pop song.

“Diamonds and Gold” is one of my favorites on the album. Tod A. reveals that the Rain Dogs album never left his turntable for most of 1986. This seems rather obvious, as “Diamonds and Gold” seems made for Firewater’s unusual sound. Tod sings this song as if he has long known it by heart. This song stays true to the original, right down to the dark and gritty vocals.

However, there are some less successful songs on this album; let’s take, for example, “Folsom Prison Blues.” It is impossible to visualize anyone singing this song but the Man in Black. It’s a good shot, but it’s hard to cover someone so legendary.

Another song that seems tailor-made for Firewater, The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black,” is also not as good as the original. Firewater’s take on this shake-your-fist-at-the-sky song is somewhat slower and more manic-depressive. However, the sitar and tabla are still there, keeping the song true to form.

All in all, Firewater shows us that not only are they accomplished musicians, but they can take their own unique sound and put a fresh new spin on some “classic” tunes.

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