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Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones

Foreverly – 2013 (Reprise)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones

Talk about strange bedfellows. Who would have thunk that Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day and singer Norah Jones, who has veered in a more rootsy direction in recent years, would ever have put out a disc, let alone one so refreshing as this tribute to the Everly Brothers? The title is a bit of conundrum. Is the disc meant as a present of sorts to the Everlys, their fans and their musical style? Or is it intended to signify that the music of the Everlys can last forever? Or both?

While not following the exact order of the Everlys' 1958 disc, "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us," all 12 songs are included here. While some (Barbara Allen) date back to the 17th century, Jones and Armstrong make them sound fresh ("Foreverly" adds harp on the lead-off Roving Gambler) and contemporary, even though a chunk of them concern death and murder.

The production is spare with the emphasis squarely on the voices of Armstrong and Jones. Good thing because both are in excellent control, and the end result is that this sounds like a cohesive duets disc instead of a manufactured product. Not bad given that they only recorded the songs in nine days.

Jones and Armstrong sound on the same page (the pedal steel laced ultra sad song Lightning Express and the more upbeat Silver Haired Daddy of Mine, written in part by Gene Autry), and Armstrong deserves tremendous credit because what he does here is far far different than his usual gig with Green Day. The pacing is on the low key side (however, this is not a snoozer by any stretch), but the meshing of voices (the excellent Long Time Gone, Down in the Willow Garden and the British folk ballad Barbara Allen) is something to behold with both principles up to snuff.

The instrumentation is spare with lots of acoustic guitar, pedal steel from Johnny Lam, upright bass and piano simply laid down, along with effective drumming from Dan Rieser and fiddle from Charlie Burnham.

Sometimes it pays to do something a little - make that a lot - different. Just ask Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Kudos to Armstrong and Jones for taking a huge chance and coming through big time. The Everlys legacy is alive and sounding great thanks to "Foreverly." As to the conundrum - "Foreverly" is both an offering to them and their fans along with showing that their music is alive and well.