The typically savvy folks at 89.3 the Current had one of the more brilliant ideas of late for a local music project: Get a bunch of different bands from around the Twin Cities to record songs from Beck’s “Song Reader” sheet-music book. However, the public radio station wound up airing the results at an incredibly dumb time: This past Sunday night opposite the Oscars. Even Super Bowl Sunday probably would’ve been better for the station’s culture-savant audience.
Fortunately, those of you who missed the “Current Presents” broadcast -- i.e., 98% of you -- can still hear the results through the miracle of modern streaming capabilities. The show is now up on the Current’s website, where three of the tracks are also available as free mp3's. Those happen to be three of the best cuts, too, including a sweet lament called “Sorry” by Sonny Knight and members of the Twin Cities Funk & Soul All-Stars, who otherwise wouldn’t know Beck from Björk. Dig the video of their live recording above.
Other highlights among the 14 tracks in the project ranged in style from Prissy Clerks’ stormy, guitar-buzzing “Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard” to the Roe Family Singers’ tender living-room ballad “America, Here’s My Boy” to the wildly twanged up “I’m Down” by ex-Chooglin’ rocker Brian Vanderwerf’s new band Eleganza. Other participants included Chris Koza (Rogue Valley), Gabriel Douglas (4onthefloor), John Munson (Semishakespeare), Matt Latterell, Niki Becker, hip-hop producer Big Cats, the Doctors (featuring Colonial Watts), Heavy Deeds, Dreamland Faces and Bad Mom.
Unfortunately, that stream of the show may be the only way to hear all the songs together. There would be complex royalty issues if the Current tried to make them commercially available. It’s essentially up to the bands to release each track individually (and for free). Some of them could also post the songs alongside other interpretations at the official Songreader.net site.
“I am left with the hope that each band, having put the time into learning these songs, will continue to perform them,” said the host of Sunday’s special, Jacquie Fuller, who spearheaded the project from its start to finish with producer John Miller (both doing so on a volunteer basis outside of their full-time behind-the-scene duties at Minnesota Public Radio). Admitting it was less than ideal, Fuller blamed the chosen air time on various schedule shuffling that kept pushing it back from week to week.
One upside of the delayed timing, though, was that she landed an 11th-hour interview with Beck himself, which is spliced in amid the songs in the special. While he didn’t really comment specifically on the local recordings, Mr. Hansen did interestingly put the kibosh on calling them “cover” songs: “It’s like saying Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” or “My Way’ were covers,” he said (Sinatra didn't actually write those songs).
Great point. However, I highly doubt Reprise Records premiered either of those recordings on Oscars night. Here's hoping the Current re-airs its special sometime soon.