Sound: This isn't necessarily a project you would have predicted for either Billie Joe Armstrong or Norah Jones - basically we're talking about possibly the most well-known modern punk vocalist and Ravi Shankar's daughter (who is a famous jazz and pop singer-songwriter in her own right). Together they have managed to record the country-tinged album originally recorded by crooners, the Everly Brothers. At the time the Everly Brothers were becoming famous using the type of vocal harmony that would especially be popularized in the '60s, most notably by the Beatles. The decision by Billie Joe and Norah to record the album seems to have originated with Billie Joe Armstrong feeling pulled to the album and listening to it frequently. He chose Norah to collaborate with after they had each sang with Stevie Wonder live, in an unrelated capacity. Doing a side by side comparison between the original album and "Foreverly" will show that it is a fairly accurate re-creation, though the chemistry between the vocalists is different than the original. There are 12 tracks on the album (just as "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us"), and the album clocks in at approximately 45 minutes. The first two singles from "Foreverly" were "Long Time Gone" and "Silver Haired Daddy of Mine." The album is country-tinged rock, and at different points bounces more or less between these two extremes.
I don't really know how to go track by track on an album that is such a direct cover of an existing classic album, but I will briefly touch on each track. The album opens up with "Roving Gambler," which is a traditional folk song, and relies fairly heavily on some harmonica work. "Long Time Gone" has a very Johnny Cash type of guitar going on, along with a piano. Of course, the vocal harmonies are the central part of the music and they're ongoing throughout the entire album. "Lightning Express" is a sad traditional folk song, with a lot of lap steel guitar. "Silver Haired Daddy of Mine," interestingly enough, has an almost modern feel to it, even after going back and listening to the Everly Brothers' version. "Down in the Willow Garden" has a cool/creepy feel to it, that would fit along with a creepy rockabilly gothic vibe. "Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet" is definitely the weirdest song on the album, though completely unintentionally, I'm sure. At times the song comes across like it is written about a child and at other times it comes across like a love song. "Oh So Many Years" is more of a traditional country song than most of the rest of the album, with the exception of an instrumental interlude in the middle that definitely has a rock feel to it. "Barbara Allen" shows Billie Joe Armstrong at his most recognizable to my ears, as well as being carried by an acoustic guitar and fiddle. "Rockin' Alone (in an Old Rockin' Chair)" is a sad song that kind of gets to me personally as it reminds me of my grandmother, but it is definitely a finely crafted song and well-performed on this album. "I'm Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail" shows Norah Jones performing some lead vocals and playing the banjo. This was immediately one of my favorite songs from the album, as well. "Kentucky" had an almost early psychedelic feel to it, mixed with maybe a touch of ghost riders in the sky. The album closes out with "Put My Little Shoes Away," which was the only song from the album actually written by the Everly Brothers (or at least partially, as it was actually a modified traditional song). // 8
Lyrics: I'm not really going to be judging the actual lyrics here, as this being an entire album from 1958 re-created by modern musicians the lyrics were out of their control. I do really find it interesting that the songwriting from the time period seems to have lyrics that cut to the root of what the songwriter is trying to say faster than a lot of modern songs. This isn't necessarily commentary on anyone specific, just a general observation between songwriting from half a century ago versus the songwriting of today. Also, not saying that there aren't good songwriters now, but it is more the exception than the rule it was then. As far as the actual vocals go, I was thoroughly impressed by both Billie Joe and Norah Jones. I actually couldn't imagine Billie Joe pulling this off when I first heard about the project, but after hearing the video for "Long Time Gone" I was won over. You can't really identify Billie Joe by his voice, as his signature punk rock sneer isn't evidenced at all, but instead you see a softer side as he provides irresistible harmonies with Norah Jones. Norah has shown through her current solo body of work that she is a capable vocalist and she proved the same on her performance on "Foreverly." // 8
Overall Impression: I was thoroughly impressed with this album, but I worry about the ability of the "general listener" to get behind what they're doing with this album. I think, essentially, this album is almost an indulgence by Billie Joe and Norah that gives you the opportunity to re-examine some music that influenced probably a good portion of modern music either directly or indirectly. I think that letting yourself appreciate older music, at least occasionally, helps keep the idea of "what music is" in perspective. At the end of the day I was fairly impressed with the album. My favorite songs would probably be "Rockin' Alone (in an Old Rockin' Chair)" and "Long Time Gone" and "I'm Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail," but honestly if I'm in the right mood I can listen to this album over and over again from beginning to end. Norah and Billie each provide vocals as well as acoustic and electric guitars - and oddly enough, pump organ. Norah Jones also supplies chimes and 6 string banjo. // 8
- Brandon East (c) 2013