Kendra Morris: Mockingbird


It is not unreasonable to view albums entirely comprised of versions of other people’s songs with some suspicion.  Do they mask a spell of writer’s block?  Is it just to fulfill a record contract?  Are they only trying to ride the coattails of better known artists?  Surely some such records might come off that way, but at their best they are illuminating reinterpretations of otherwise familiar music, revealing different angles like a Cubist painting.  Kendra Morris has made a lovely, soulful covers record that aims for this goal. 

A relative newcomer (a self-titled EP from 2010 and last year’s album debut, Banshee, pretty much covers her solo career), Morris has already been recognized by ASCAP & the Songwriters Hall of Fame as a new songwriter of note, awarding her the 2011 Holly Prize for new artists.  So making her new record a covers album was hardly a necessity and instead more of a passion project.  Along with producer Jeremy Page, she offers a funky take on classics from such diverse artists as David Bowie, Dionne Warwick, Soundgarden, Lou Reed and Radiohead (turning “Karma Police” into what sounds like a lost Dusty Springfield tune).  Using a retro-soul backdrop, she gives a totally different vision to Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” the album’s first two singles.  Some of the variations from the originals are subtle, but quite telling and just enough to make the songs very much her own, despite their familiarity.

When you’re dealing with covering songs of this caliber, no one, not even the artist herself, would claim them superior to the originals.  That’s not the point.  Hopefully they offer an intriguing alternative.  Maybe they even introduce the listener to something they hadn’t heard before.  In any case, Morris has made an album that is a strong listen on its own right, and proves her to be a canny interpreter to boot.


Track List:

01. Space Oddity
02. As Long As I've Got You
03. Miss You
04. Walk On By
05. Shine On You Crazy Diamond
06. Wicked Game
07. I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)
08. Karma Police
09. Ride The Lightning
10. Cry Me A River
11. Walk On The Wild Side
12. Black Hole Sun
13. Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)