‘Bring It On Home’
When planning for a long road trip, it is essential to compile a mix of songs that can be played over and over for those stretches of road where quality radio just doesn’t exist.
In the old days, it was the trusty mixed tape recorded onto a cassette. Later on, you burned your favorite tunes onto a CD.
These days, people are continuing the “road mix” tradition with MP3 players and other electronic devices.
It was during a cross-country road trip through Canada that Asheville-based musicians Shannon Whitworth and Barrett Smith were discussing their favorite songs for such a mix. Suddenly, they realized that they were discussing songs that they would like to record for a covers album.
A few months later, that realization was a reality.
Whitworth and Smith recently released “Bring It On Home,” a collection of a dozen cover tunes that range from the old folk tune, “You Are My Sunshine,” to the Latin jazz standard, “Corcovado (Quiet Nights),” to the Sam Cooke ballad, “Bring It On Home.”
With fantastic support from a host of guest musicians, such as saxophonist Jacob Rodriquez, violinist Nate Leath, drummer Jeff Sipe, bassist and organist Mike Ashworth and guitarist and keyboardist Michael Libramento (of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals), the vocal duo has created an amazing album of quiet power and grace.
The slow pace of most of the songs gives them a lullaby feel to them, yet the album never gets sleepy or boring.
Whitworth, a longtime veteran of the western North Carolina music scene, shares the vocal duties with Smith in about a 50-50 ratio on “Bring It On Home.” Her smoky, slightly twangy voice has always been a perfect match for the country-tinged original songs that she sings as the front-woman for The Shannon Whitworth Band.
Surprisingly, her vocal tone works even better on the other styles found on the new album, particularly the Latin-esque versions of A.C. Jobim and Gene Lees’ “Corcovado” and “Sway,” previously recorded by everyone from Dean Martin to the Puppini Sisters.
The duo pay tribute to the singer-songwriters of the 1960s and ’70s on a number of tracks, including Paul Simon’s “Duncan,” James Taylor’s “You Can Close Your Eyes,” Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire” and Paul Siebel’s “Louise.”
Smith’s voice is a perfect complement to Whitworth’s, whether he is taking lead, adding harmony background vocals or sharing the lead in a duet as on the album’s sweet midnight version of the jazz standard “Moonglow.”
“Bring It On Home” shows what can happen when original musicians decide to create a style and stamp it onto some of the best songs ever written. Here’s hoping Whitworth and Smith start contemplating Volume 2.