“The result is an intense and gloriously satisfying version of an already killer song. Everything works here from the strings to the supporting players to Henley’s obvious reverence to the original recording.”
Artist: Carson Henley
Single: “Last Goodbye”
RIYL: Jeff Buckley, James Morrison, Joe Cocker
Generally speaking, I cringe at the thought of anyone making attempts to cover Jeff Buckley. There are many reasons for this but the main one being that it is a near impossibility to do it any better. And tackling a well-known and signature tune off the brilliant Grace album requires a special kind of confidence. For awhile, it just felt like it was too soon following the singer’s tragic and untimely death in 1997. After that, it just seemed unfair to try to live up to that standard.
Let me back up for a second. I also wouldn’t normally include a single cover song as part of the monthly artist spotlight, but this exception felt warranted. I was reminded that the first time I saw Jeff Buckley in concert, he was playing cover songs and hadn’t yet delved into the darkly haunting material that would cement his status posthumously, perhaps most interestingly coming in the form of a Leonard Cohen cover of “Hallelujah.” So, after suspending my own wariness, I pushed play on the video below with an open mind.
Carson Henley is an award-winning Seattle-based singer songwriter that you may have heard of before. You also may have heard of his sister, Tess, whose last album was featured in our spotlight as well. For this rendition of “Last Goodbye,” Henley employed the talents of The Passenger String Quartet and wisely made some adjustments to the instrumentation to allow the raw beauty of the lyrics and arrangement to shine through. Henley’s vocals also wisely don’t attempt to mimic Buckley’s, but rather places subtle twists in all the right places to showcase his own range and deep vibrato. But another pleasant surprise is the supercharged falsetto and rich tone that Henley possesses, which allow him to respectfully make this his own.
Believe me, friends, this is not an easy feat to pull off and the truth is that I haven’t heard a successful or even middling performance of this song prior to this recording. The scrutiny that comes along with this task seems to roll right off Henley’s back. The result is an intense and gloriously satisfying version of an already killer song. Everything works here from the strings to the supporting players to Henley’s obvious reverence to the original recording. What a lovely surprise to hear a fresh take on a modern classic.
Carson Henley website: http://carsonhenley.com/