Review: Various Artists – Joe Boyd Presents ‘Way To Blue’, The Songs Of Nick Drake

There is a strong argument to suggest that tributes to Nick Drake have been overdone in the past. Yet thirty nine years since his tragic passing, perhaps we finally have the most fitting tribute of all, with an album of cover versions helmed by the original Drake producer, Joe Boyd. Here, Drake’s songs are performed as artist collaborations by a variety of musicians whose work spans six decades.

Way To Blue Album Cover

It is a relative newcomer who opens the show as Luluc’s shivery tones on ‘Things Behind The Sun’ pave the way for a classy selection of interpretations of this most revered of artists. Participants in the project were selected based on the fact that they didn’t actually sound like Nick Drake. So Scott Matthews brings a gruff, countrified edge to ‘Place To Be’, Krystie Warren’s take on ‘Time Has Told Me’ is soulful and bluesy and it’s fair to say that Robyn Hitchcock and Green Gartside have been the owners of  music’s distinctive voices well before this project got underway.

Listening further, Danny Thompson and Zoe Rahman perform a colourful and vibrant instrumental version of ‘One Of These Things First’ and Shane Nicholson’s gloriously warm reworking of ‘Rider On The Wheel’ is undoubtedly another highlight. Naturally not all performances will be for everyone (Lisa Hannigan and Vashti Bunyan seem too meandering and willowy, for instance) but the devotion to the material always comes across as genuine.

Perhaps the most pleasantly surprising element of this compilation is that there’s an air of celebration and optimism about the whole experience with each artist revelling in the opportunity of being able to show their respect to the record’s subject. In fact, the only real sad moment occurs at the end of the final song as applause fills the room and you wonder how many rousing receptions Drake would have encountered if he were still performing today.

Web Sites:
Navigator Records Label Site
Luluc’s Version of ‘Things Behind The Sun’

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