Review: The Music Is You - A Tribute to John Denver

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With his signature round glasses, shaggy hair, humanitarian causes, and acoustic folk tunes - John Denver was a hipster 20 years before today's hipsters were born.  And the newly released tribute album The Music is You celebrates the life and nature inspired tunes of the singer-songwriter.

The list of contributing artists is stellar...simply stellar. 

  1. My Morning Jacket - "Leaving on a Jet Plane"
  2. Dave Matthews - "Teach Me to Tomorrow"
  3. Kathleen Edwards - "All of My Memories"
  4. J. Mascis and Sharon Van Etten - "Prisoners"
  5. Train - "Sunshine on My Shoulders"
  6. Old Crow Medicine Show - "Back Home Again"
  7. Lucinda Williams - "This Old Guitar"
  8. Amos Lee - "Some Days are Diamonds"
  9. Brett Dennen and Milow - "Annie's Song"
  10. Evan Dando - "Looking for Space"
  11. Brandi Carlile and Emmylou Harris - "Take Me Home, Country Roads"
  12. Blind Pilot - "The Eagle and the Hawk"
  13. Mary Chapin Carpenter - "I Guess He'd Rather Be in Colorado"
  14. Josh Ritter and Barnstar! - "Darcy Follow"
  15. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - "Wooden Indian"

That list of collaborators is so strong I immediately purchased the record (even though it had a song by Train on it).  Many of the artists kept the original Denver spirit - opting for acoustic versions of his classic songs (but then again, acoustic is probably to be expected from Carlile, Dennen, Lee, MMJ, and Carpenter).  And in turn, former Dinosaur Jr frontman Mascis and former Lemonheads frontman Dando bring the rock - dousing the Denver classics with 90's alt rock goodness.

For me, the standout of the record is Brett Dennen's version of "Annie's Song" - which is just so incredibly charming.  A close second place is granted to Brandi Carlile, the Hanseroth twins, and Emmylou Harris - that collaboration alone is worth the price of admissions folks! I will say I was sad to not see "Thank God I'm a Countryboy" on the track list, given that it was a bigger hit for Denver than some of the songs selected.

In the spirit of everything old is new again, it's remarkable to hear these Denver classics refurbished by contemporary artists. The end result is songs so great they could hold their own against the modern Americana-folk revolutionaries (I'm looking at you Marcus Mumford).

With a recorded catalog that stretches over 300 songs, Denver is a classic and timeless songwriter. If you're a fan of the current Americana-folk-acoustic movement, give this a listen since John Denver is probably the grandfather of the genre.

My senses are filled up again, thanks to Denver and a slew of great artists.