It’s few and far between those that can truly make any song their own. While interpretation was paramount in previous generations — from ‘60s hitmakers to folk blues stalwarts, the cover is something of a dirty parlor trick these days. Most artists often find themselves too close to the source, unable to let themselves be free of a favorite’s hold. There are some, though, that find themselves diviners of others’ works in a way that transcends cover to interpretation. Fussell finds himself clearly in that camp, a miner of wayward hymns in need of a craftsman’s touch to bring them back to their shine. He’s spent years working in the Southern songbook to find just the right strains, collecting an archive of sorrow, celebration, and serenity that transcends age.
For his latest, the Durham, NC artist mixes a collection of bittersweet originals with interpretations that lay their scars bare, a fitting bouquet for a broken year. With James Elkington at the helm, and kicking in a multi-instrumental bounty, members of Mt. Moriah, Califone, and even the Bonnie ‘Prince’ himself contribute to the album’s seaglass sojourns. What transpires is Good and Green Again, roundly among Fussel’s most inquiring albums to date. With songs soaked in hurt and hubris, there’s a melancholy that matches the age we occupy. Here, as always, Fussell uses his curatorial skills to reflect the uncertainty, the anguish, and the unease of our times through antique notions and contemporary cloths alike. Stitched with his instrumental incursions, the album is a homespun cocktail of warmth handed down from generations past to cushion the present. There aren’t many that can steady the rudder like Jake, but this proves that he’s the captain we need in uncertain waters.
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