With full pity due unto those who didn't grow up with a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends next to their bed‚ for most of us the name Shel Silverstein is synonymous with tales of twisted‚ childhood morality. However the name also extends to a diverse artist who regularly contributed cartoons to Playboy and had a prolific career as a Grammy-nominated songwriter. While "A Boy Named Sue" and "The Cover of the Rolling Stone" are sure to ring a bell with most casual FM enthusiasts‚ Silverstein's own takes on the songs as well as the rest of his recorded catalogue have fallen deeply off the modern radar. Twistable‚ Turnable Man not only serves as a cross-generational tribute to one of our age's greatest storytellers‚ but also as a rebirth for these great poems of melody that had begun to slip away.
My Morning Jacket both open and close the album with Jim James and his Kentucky brethren actually sounding far more country than ever before. Despite its slow waltz‚ the tales of "murder and blueberry pies" do suit the MMJ vibe well‚ as does the aptly titled "26 Second Song." The other well known artists on the album seem to tackle the project differently though‚ by making the songs far more their own and no doubt far more suited for repeated listens. Andrew Bird's take on "The Twistable‚ Turnable Man Returns" could no doubt be mistaken for a Bird original if no history were known; the same goes for John Prine's heart-aching cut of "This Guitar is for Sale."
Dr. Dog's epic take on the once simple "The Unicorn" will be said to have "Wilsonian" harmonies‚ but really they're "DrDogian" and literally one of the biggest tracks the Philly boys have ever recorded. The Black Francis version of "Rolling Stone" is dark and raw‚ and a seemingly perfect encore for the next time you see Frank Black perform. Kris KristoffersonLucinda WilliamsNanci Griffith -- they all lay down heartfelt takes‚ and when mixed in with the younger guns it again shows the multiple generations of artists that Silverstein has influenced. These fresh takes on great‚ forgotten songs makes this cover album far more listenable than those akin to the Gin Blossoms on a Kiss tribute.