Basement Tracks – Lucky Dog (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

This new one from Lucky Dog seems to cover all the bases regarding how, and indeed, where artists source their material. It’s a real mix of re-imaginings of classic tracks, reworkings of friends music, plenty of original numbers and even a step into more traditional territory. And musically too it wanders across the understated and deft ends of several acoustic genres, from coffee-shop folk music to ragged country to emotive Americana and all points in between.

As the voice of Dylan looms large across the album, both via the inclusion of his songs and as a source of inspiration too, it is appropriate that it kicks off with Man in The Long Black Coat. Typically brooding and shot through with some gorgeous shards of emotive fiddle, it perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come.

Perhaps slightly more surprising is Tom Waits’ Swordfishtrombones, a hard sound to cover but here suitably bohemian and raw-edged, odd and intriguing, again making the most of a wandering gipsy violin and flamenco groove. But, great as these covers are, it is the original tracks which are the highlights for me, being someone for whom the new sonic path is always preferable tothe one well-travelled.

No Regrets takes its musical inspiration from Pachelbel’s Canon, a gorgeous piece of ambient classical meets minimalist folk and Most of The While is a poised and perfectly picked, blend of chiming guitars and heartfelt honesty.

Siri Undlin’s Pharmakon is rendered into a shimmering, tumbling cascade of acoustic notes and To Feel The Likes sits perfectly right after the song which it is a gentle parody of…His Bobness’ iconic lovesong To Make You Feel My Love. And in the traditional corner, there is a wonderfully lilting version of the American classic You Are My Sunshine as well as a modern upgrade of the Scottish tribute to the Flodden fallen, Flowers of The Forest.

Many artists draw a distinct line of demarcation between original songs and cover versions. What Basement Tracks proves is that songs are songs, music is music and such boundaries are, if we are being honest, pointless. Taking the pandemic’s enforced slowing of life’s pace as an unexpected opportunity, David Schipper, the core and main songwriter of Lucky Dog, found that he had the time to revisit, rerecord and gather this collection of songs together. And whatever their individual origin, they sit together on the album perfectly.

The songs found on Basement Tracks certainly represent a labour of love but they also remind us that songs exist in a moment and as the moments move on, songs do too. Is there really a final, finished, definitive version of a song? Even the most well-known songs represent only what took place on that day of recording, don’t they? Surely any song worth its salt has the ability to sonically evolve and be explored? This collection of rerecordings, reworkings, collaborations, covers and dedications is the perfect proof of just such an idea.

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