Thursday, 5 August 2010

Lisa Miller Car Tape 2 (4*)

Car Tape 2

Hughesy's initial exposure to Melbourne singer/songwriter Lisa Miller came through covers of Are You The One That I’ve Been Waiting For and It’s A Long Way To The Top on a live CD called RRRewind In The Chapel, and while both were fairly straight readings of a couple of Oz Rock classics, they suggested Ms Miller has a way with cover versions. That impression was reinforced by a classy reading of Hickory Wind on 2004's Pushover EP, much of which is made up of live recordings from Lisa's opening spot on Neil Young's 2003 Australian tour.

Along the way, mixed in with a couple of albums of original material, there have been two collections of covers in the Car Tapes series. The first, released in 2002 turned up on a couple of play lists, including the DIG On The Radio broadcasts on ABC Local Radio over summer, and was, if I recall correctly, rather impressive with an interesting range of rather obscure covers. Had I run across a copy I could well have shelled out the shekels, but that eventuality failed to eventuate.

Faced with an expiring subscription to Rhythms magazine in June 2010, however. I found myself logging on to the website to re-subscribe and discovered the freebie they were giving away to subscribers was Car Tape 2. Fine, I thought, the first one wasn't too bad at all and there's that old thing about gift horses and their mouths. Now, after a couple of listens I've strolled over to check the availability of Car Tape, and at $16.99 I'll be pressing the Buy button in the very near future.

While the Pushover EP was an impressive affair, I've really been really and severely impressed by Car Tape 2.

If you're familiar with the opening Hidden Charms from the Elvis Costello cover (a fairly straight reading on 1995's Kojak Variety) you won't recognize it here. Miller reworks it drastically, slows it down and when the recognition factor kicks in around the chorus I was convinced that we were on a winner.

The second track, Tim Hardin's It’ll Never Happen Again is a reasonably straight reading, but if you're expecting a funky workout on Curtis Mayfield's Superfly, think again. The version here would sit fairly comfortably on a Stephen Cummings acoustic album, but that's not surprising given the presence of long-time Cummings associate Shane O'Mara in the producer's chair and on guitar duties. Ryan Adams' He Wants To Play Hearts explores similar territory while Ruby Johnson's deep soul I’ll Run Your Hurt Away gets a heftier reading without straying too far into R&B territory.

Neil Young's Ambulance Blues and the Bert Jansch track (Needle Of Death) that Neil pinched the tune from get side-by-side predictably moody readings, before we're back into jauntier territory for The Cake's You Can Have Him, which doesn't come across as a major slice of heartache.

There's nothing in the title of La Maison oú j’ai Grandi (the Françoise Hardy version) that makes you think of Verdelle Smith's classic Tar and Cement, but on this evidence I think I'll go for the version francaise, thanks very much. A very classy reading. The final couple of tracks, Traction In The Rain and Moonraker (yes, the Shirley Bassey/John Barry James Bond theme) wrap things up rather nicely.

A very classy collection of impressive covers that had me setting off towards the iTunes Store for Car Tape. If I was still doing the community radio thing the two albums would be providing a substantial chunk of Aussie content for Hughesy’s playlists.

Try it. You won’t be disappointed.