Review: Classics Recap, Band of Heathens Surveys Some Standards

Band of pagans/Remote Transmissions Volume One/BOH Recordings
3.5 out of five stars

When an artist or a group chooses to make a cover collection, it can be interpreted in different ways. It could mean that they are simply waiting for the next all-original offering. Or maybe they’ve run out of inspiration and need to refuel and refresh. Or maybe they just want to listen to songs they’ve always admired.

In the case of Band of Heathens, it was about coping with the pandemic. Their new album, Remote Transmissions Volume One, evolved from a podcast they hosted and an interview segment of the same name. They admit they weren’t there to reinvent the wheel, but instead chose a selection of songs they had long admired, with a cast of guests who shared their affection and enthusiasm: Margo Price, Todd Snider, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Nicki Bluhm, Hayes Carll and Charlie Starr in the lead.

Yet given their choices, it’s the songs that shine in the spotlight as opposed to the performers themselves. It’s a varied selection, but one that reflects a rich reverence for classic vanities. “Rock and Roll Doctor” by Little Feat, “Night Moves” by Bob Seger, the classic R&B standard of “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”, “Walls” by Tom Petty, “The Man in Me” by Bob Dylan, ” El Paso City” and Guy Clark’s restless ballad “LA Freeway” are among the highlights, as each is rendered with the sound and sensibility applicable to each. Yet in truth, every song qualifies as a standout, and when they end the set with an otherwise obscure Stones offer (do this Keith Richards in particular), it’s the faded blues of “You Got the Silver,” the taste and tenacity of all the actors are particularly evident.

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Ultimately, Remote Transmissions is a great mixtape, a reminder that even in days of desperation, good songs can provide the soothing balm that keeps us going and shining the light. The fact that it is labeled Volume 1 offers hope that there will be more to come, and indeed, given what is initially shared, it will also be eagerly awaited.

Photo courtesy of Absolute Publicity

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