We Are Only Riders
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British musician Cypress Grove was doing some housecleaning in 2006 when he ran across a battered old cassette with a label that read "JLP Songs." Grove soon discovered that the tape was the long-forgotten document of a songwriting session between himself and Jeffrey Lee Pierce, the firebrand leader of the blues-punk band the Gun Club who died in 1996 at the age of 38. While the fidelity of the tape was too poor for commercial release and some of the songs were mere fragments, Grove was struck by the strength of "Constant Waiting," "Ramblin' Mind," and "Free to Walk," and was determined people should have the chance to hear Pierce's lost songs. Working with a handful of Pierce's friends, peers, and admirers, Grove helped to oversee new recordings of these and several other lesser-known Pierce compositions, and the results have appeared as We Are Only Riders, credited to the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project. Grove's stellar cast for these recordings includes Nick Cave, Deborah Harry, Mark Lanegan, the Raveonettes, Dave Alvin, Kid Congo Powers, the Sadies, Lydia Lunch, and Isobel Campbell, and while the approach of including three performances each of "Constant Waiting," "Ramblin' Mind," and "Free to Walk" (to represent different phases in the development of the tunes) backfires somewhat as they tend to trip over one another, the emotional force and musical strength of these recordings makes this album something special. Cave's version of "Ramblin' Mind" is as dark and ominous as it should be, while David Eugene Edwards makes the song sound like the theme from a particularly inspired spaghetti western; Harry's interpretation of "Lucky Jim" is a lovely, haunting paean to loss and absence; the Sadies transform "Constant Waiting" into a striking bit of overcast country-pop, while Johnny Dowd's take is full of sharp, angular electronics and sound like the stuff of a bitter nightmare; Lanegan and Campbell's rough, sweet harmonies and the bluegrass-influenced acoustic backing on "Free to Walk" find a glimmer of sunlight in the song's dour textures; and the closing rave-up on "Walkin' Down the Street (Doin' My Thing)" sounds like a profane barroom singalong in some village of the damned. We Are Only Riders is powerful reminder of how influential Jeffrey Lee Pierce's music was despite his lack of mainstream success, and how many creative directions his songs could take, making this a remarkable gift from one musician to another.
10/10 Debbie Harry!!!
Great album. Especially Lucky Jim & Free To Walk with Debbie Harry, who is sounding as phenominal as ever. These two tracks came as quite a surprise as there is a new Blondie album out this year!!! Debbie wrote a song called 'Under The Gun' on Blondie's 1999 album 'No Exit' which is about her friend Jeffrey Lee Pierce.
Highly recommend buying the new album, the tracks Debbie sings on are a absolute stand out!
We Are Only Riders
When I first heard rumours of this album start to circulate, I was both excited and concerned in equal measure. Now with hindsight I can say that I was entirely right to be excited, and that any concerns were completely misplaced. At its heart is an incredibly bold and audacious concept. Take one pretty obscure musician, record a bunch of his songs that not even his die hard fans have heard before and written in a genre he was not even know for - and add to that the fact that there are three versions of some of these songs - and it sounds like a recipe for disaster. What it is in fact is an absolute musical tour de force from the first note to the last! The headline grabber here is the duet between Nick Cave and Debbie Harry – which is utterly sublime. But listen also to the version by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan, and the version by The Raveonettes, and you quickly realize that you are effectively listening to three different songs.
Likewise, the version of Ramblin’ Mind by Nick Cave is vintage demonic preacher man Cave at his absolute best. But listen also to the version by Cypress Grove (again, so different from Cave’s version that it is for all intents and purposes another song), and try and work out who is doing that deranged unhinged whispering backing vocal. That’s right, it is Nick Cave again, bringing an entirely different perspective to a song he performed himself only a few tracks earlier.
I could go on to dissect every track, but this is something you really need to experience for yourself. This album is an utter triumph on every level. Buy it, and I promise you, the future lies careless!
JLP & The Gun Club...
... opened my eyes to a whole new world of music when I saw them at the Hacienda in Manchester in 1983. This album is a collection of previously unreleased JLP songs lovingly covered by musicians who knew and loved him or were influenced by him. It's a wonderful record...
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