While history certainly hasn’t forgotten about the Everly Brothers (they’ve won every award, set numerous records) the group hasn’t been embraced by later generations the way other ’50s icons like Chuck Berry and Tony Bennett have (their campy Hardy Boys image probably hasn’t helped). Perhaps that’ll change with this release, on which Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong collaborates with musical polymath Norah Jones for a track-by-track recreation of the Everly Brothers’ 1958 classic Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.
No one should be surprised that this works as well as it does. While he’s written his fair share of snarling punk anthems, Armstrong is not without a few hits that find him channeling his inner balladeer. Likewise, Jones has proven herself to be as stylistically omnivorous as perhaps any musician extant, having released experimental roots album Little Broken Hearts with producer Brian Burton in 2012, in addition to collaborating with such disparate talents as Ryan Adams, Willie Nelson and, uh, Seth MacFarlane.
Bona fides aside, though, covering the Everlys note for note is a bold move. Neil Young famously professed to having tried and failed to recreate their airtight vocal harmonies with every band he’d ever played in. Wisely, Norah and Billy stick to the script here. Their rendering of these songs isn’t so much an interpretation as a masterful impression, with Armstrong taking brother Don’s baritone parts as Jones fills in for Phil with her uncannily spot-on alto. Accented by harmonicas and slide guitar, fiddles and lots of reverb, the production is as warm as a feather bed, capturing the Everlys prescient mix of roots, country and folk. Do not miss “Put My Little Shoes Away”; sparse and haunting, it’s the best example of this unlikely collaboration firing on all cylinders.