Billie Joe Armstrong is a divisive name in the punk scene. Either he’s recognized as a punk rock legend for some of the most epic songs and records in the genre, or as an annoying sellout. Norah Jones is an indie princess who has spent the last decade forging a name for herself through bluesy inspired folk pop. Admittedly, I don’t know that much about her music, but I hear that she is just swell.
Although Billie Joe isn’t known for his quieter side, the collaboration with Jones, effectively called Billie Joe + Norah, is a beautiful pairing between two renowned artists that pushes both into unfamiliar territory. The fact that this is a cover album of The Everly Brothers’ Songs Our Daddy Taught Us might throw some people off, but the record is a rare chance to see new aspects of musicians exploring outside of their genres, especially for Billie Joe, in ways that we’ve never known them.
Songs Our Daddy Taught Us was originally released in 1958 by The Everly Brothers, a rock and roll duo in the days of the still newborn genre. The release is a collection of traditional songs that the duo learned as children. Billie Joe + Norah’s take on the album is a tribute to the original material more than it is a reimagining or reinterpretation. The duo play it very close to the vest on the record, so much so that at first glance, you wouldn’t know that it isn’t The Everly Brothers singing. However, the biggest tell is the full backing on the CD, as opposed to the original’s guitar and singing only.
What Billie Joe + Norah manage to capture almost perfectly is the beautiful harmonies that both sing together, which is partially what The Everly Brothers are known for. However, the downside to how well they match the original brothers is that they don’t try anything new to expand on it. This style of music is a refreshing sound that just isn’t practiced anymore, and seeing the duo releasing Foreverly as a tribute is a welcome surprise that tosses a wrench into the scene. One of the best parts of the album is how basic everything sounds, as the music sits in the background while the duo’s crooning singing dominates each song.
Lead single “Long Time Gone” is a faithful rendition of the original, complete with the twang of country-inspired guitar. Without an intricate and heavy musical style, the song uses the music to push the lyrics front and center as Billie and Norah croon together. “Oh So Many Years” is much in the same vein, a pop guitar song with the simplest drum beat and piano hidden behind acoustic guitars. Like any good folk song, it lyrically tells a story rather than rely on hooks to catch the listener. This track is easily the poppiest on the record and includes an electric guitar solo midway through. The album can feel monotonous at times, but the simplicity to the songs is one of their most endearing aspects.
Billie Joe + Norah’s debut album is a throwback to the older genre of rock and country that is as refreshing in this day and age as it is a uniquely made tribute album. While it is sure to introduce a new generation to past legends that they may not have otherwise listened to, the album can be so similar to the source material that it’s almost redundant.
While faithful covers are always welcome, some reimagined songs that really showcased the musical talents of both Billie Joe and Norah’s take on the songs would have been an incredible addition. That being said, the album is surprisingly refreshing in a scene that is starving for creativity and hopefully the start of more collaborations between the duo revisiting classic albums to introduce them to a new generation.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.