Cover songs can be a rewarding if tricky endeavor. There is often an art in itself behind selecting songs that you as an artist wish to pay tribute to while choosing material that compliments the sound of your project. With their covers release Trip, genre bending alt-country institution Lambchop explore and rearrange six songs handpicked by each band member with surprising and often satisfying results.
The band starts on an understated if deliberately unconventional note with an extended rendition of “Reservations”, the heart wrenching closer to Wilco’s landmark record Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The restrained instrumentation, sparse percussion, and emotional vocals on the first third of the track mirror the original in a number of ways. On the chorus it almost sounds as if Jeff Tweedy’s original vocals have been edited to serve as backing tracks to frontman Kurt Wagner’s voice. Where the band deviate from the Wilco original is in their expanded exploration through the moody soundscape of the song’s second half, extending the total length of the song to a meditative 13 minutes.
This inclination to give musical moments and passages additional breathing room is a key element to the introspective vibe of the record. The laid-back vibes of “Where Grass Won’t Grow” reinforces the pastoral imagery of the George Jones original. On “Golden Lady”, the most intriguing composition on the LP, Lambchop lock into a dreamy groove with Wagner’s subtly autotuned vocals floating over skittering percussion, delicate slide guitar, and warm synth textures. Trip does have its moments of quirky energy. In their adaptation of “Shirley” by Ohio garage rockers Mirrors, the band captures the original’s psych pop vibe with the stately guitars on the song’s first half before doubling down on the morbid conclusion with melodramatic piano and soaring backing vocals. While certainly up-tempo, Lambchop’s take on The Supremes’ “Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone” feels in many ways like a failed experiment. Wagner’s dark and almost menacing vocals clash with the playful synths and nimble bass groove of the original making for a jarring listen.
“Weather Blues” brings the record home with its throwback soul feel, uplifting arrangement, and Wagner’s yearning vocals. Trip is a pleasant musical trek with moments of beauty. It is apparent that Wagner and co. took a lot of care to select songs that they felt would compliment Lambchop’s malleable sound and broad sonic palette. For the most part these songs would fit in well alongside a set of original numbers. The relaxed mood of the release can make it less than an engaging listen at points, though a dedicated Lambchop fan might find these renditions more rewarding than the casual listener.