Last year, when we were all allowed to be in the same room as each other, Kurt Wagner of Lambchop had an idea. In an attempt to ‘remove himself from the process and content as much as possible’, he would invite his band to Nashville, ask each of them to choose a song to cover and get them to lead the recording process on that day.
The result is TRIP.
The opening track, a version of Wilco’s ‘Reservations’ is four and a half minutes of blissful vocals, ringing hi-hats and soothing piano. The issue is that the song is thirteen minutes long. The remaining eight and a half minutes consists of a sparse chilled out jam session. So sparse, in fact, that on one listen through I genuinely forgot what record I was listening to, which at least made track two a nice surprise.
After that, and once you have woken up again, the record takes a bit more shape. The songs chosen were not just plucked from obscurity but delicately hand-picked by each band member. The reasons given range from having the “right amount of pity, hard luck, and redemption for a proper Lambchop cover” (‘Where Grass Won’t Grow’ – Earl “Peanut” Montgomery) to wanting to “choose an earnest love song, a chance to display the tenderness that we’ve come to know from Kurt, Tony, and the boys” (‘Golden Lady’ – Stevie Wonder). And that range of emotion is on display throughout the album, all of it with Lambchop’s signature sound.
On a couple of occasions, that sound does drown out the joyful vibe of the originals, particularly upbeat soulful hits ‘Golden Lady’ and ‘Love is Here and Now You’re Gone’ (the spoken parts of the latter taking on quite a sinister form, almost threatening rather than remorseful). That joy is sometimes replaced with a bit of a dirge, but that can be forgiven. That is the nature of a cover, after all – take something old and refresh it, change it to fit your purposes.
That is what Kurt Wagner intended when he avoided a tour and brought his band together to make TRIP, and, for better or worse, that is what he achieved.