Kimmie Rhodes 'Covers' - Sunbird

When you can boast the company and respect of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Townes van Zandt, Emmylou Harris, Wynonna Judd and Trisha Yearwood you don’t need to prove anything to anybody when it comes to penning a song. Kimmie has stood tall among her peers for numerous years now and Willie Nelson once dubbed her an ‘undiscovered superstar’.

Born in Lubbock Texas, this country music great moved to Austin in the late 1970’s and released her first recording in 1981. Jumping 32 years, we now find Kimmie releasing her 15th recording and for one as feted as her in terms of song-writing over the intervening years; we are given a record of cover versions.

This selection of 15 tracks has been the fulfilment of a career-long dream to record a complete collection of songs written by other artists. We get an interesting mix and an insight into the songs that have inspired Kimmie over the years.

The problem in recording a covers album is that everybody listens with the memory of the original song and compares the cover version against it. By this very process, an artist can fall a long way and lose the listener. Some of the songs are brave attempts to bring a new spin to an old favourite, while other selections could be said to be best left alone.

After all, how do you improve on what is already deemed to be perfection?  The song interpretations here contain some are obvious fits, while others may take a little bit of time.

We get two Lennon/McCartney songs, two Bob Dylan songs, Jagger/Richards, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler and Rodney Crowell songs; all added to the mix of what is undoubtedly a recording of high quality.

It is the unusual selections that stand out most for me. Georgia Lee, written by Tom Waits and his wife, Kathleen Brennan is a standout interpretation and brings new colour to the idiosyncratic style of the original artist. Stuck in a Moment by Bono is less successful and yet the slow tempo gives the simple arrangement an added depth on repeated listenings.

Kimmie lost her husband, Joe Gracey, in 2011 and this is her first recording following such a sad event. Joe was an instrumental figure in the development of the country music scene in Texas and was a collaborator, bass player and soul mate to Kimmie since the beginning of her journey. I cannot help but hear his memory in many of the vocal performances here and the Rodney Crowell Adam’s Song is particularly affecting and a standout moment.   

The playing and song arrangements are excellent throughout and the stellar line up of musicians is ably guided by Gabriel Rhodes, both son and producer, in addition to playing guitar, keyboards, mandolin and accordion. A very gifted musician and a talented producer; I know that Joe would have been proud of the results on this fine collection.

Kimmie has indeed earned the right to record this guilty pleasure and to indulge herself a little. A worthy addition to her impressive catalogue of music and recommended to all country music lovers who enjoy real quality. Good on you girl.