Various Artists, Way To Blue – The Songs Of Nick Drake

Peter Blackstock

By Peter Blackstock

on 04.16.13 in Reviews
A live tribute album that transcends both the live and tribute templates

As Nick Drake’s producer in the early 1970s, Joe Boyd helped the legendary English singer-songwriter create albums that were remarkably consistent in sound and mood. A similar cohesiveness arises on Way To Blue, largely because the recordings came from a series of live concerts Boyd produced in the UK, Australia and Italy. Exquisite arrangements and recording techniques result in a live album that doesn’t sound like a live album; it doesn’t sound like a tribute album either, since the tracks weren’t gathered from disparate studio sessions. It also differs from typical tributes in that the big names aren’t the primary draw. There are a few well-known acts — Lisa Hannigan takes “Black-Eyed Dog” into uncharted territory with eerie harmonium tones, Robyn Hitchcock is well-suited to the lyrically offbeat “Parasite,” and Teddy Thompson approaches the hypnotic lure of Drake’s voice on “River Man” — but newer names make the most memorable impressions. Thompson’s closing duet with soulful Kansas City singer Krystle Warren is magical, and Hannigan’s voice finds a compelling counterpoint in Zoe Randell of the Australian duo Luluc. Indeed, it’s Luluc that shines brightest on Way To Blue, delving so deeply into the dark heart of Drake’s “Things Behind The Sun” and “Fly” that it feels like they were written for Randell to sing.