FOLK: Leaving on a Jet Plane
By My Morning Jacket, from the forthcoming album The Music Is You: A Tribute To John Denver (ATO); streaming here
And so the celebration of John Denver begins, again. An album acknowledging the song-writing of the self-proclaimed country boy is due on April 2, with My Morning Jacket's poignant, reverb-bathed version of his forlorn classic preceding the release. This isn't the first time Denver has been saluted: Take Me Home: A Tribute to John Denver happened in 2000, and included an eerie version of Jet Plane by alt-country band Tarnation. Most will know the song – about lonesomeness, life on the road and what is left behind – through Peter, Paul & Mary. Others have heard Chantel Kreviazuk's rendition. Here, My Morning Jacket's Jim James sings high and breakable over a gently finger-picked acoustic guitar, with added vocal harmony on the chorus, "I'm leavin' on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again." Denver, of course, died in a crash of an aircraft he was piloting in 1997. Life, sometimes sadly, ain't nothing but a funny, funny riddle indeed.
POP: Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye
By Lianne Le Havas, with Chilly Gonzalez; streaming here
We've been hearing a lot from and about Leonard Cohen the last few years, but no testimonies are greater than hearing the man's songs covered, especially by female vocalists. There is (among others) k.d. lang's soaring take on Hallelujah, Meshell Ndegeocello's affecting checking out of Chelsea Hotel and, now, a classy and velvet-throated version of the world's most beautiful breakup song. On a recital that is poetic and tender, Chilly Gonzalez graces the piano and the British neo-soul chanteuse Le Havas is softly resolute – imagine an all-white bedroom and a sleepy send-off.
ALT-COUNTRY: I Was Cruel
By Caitlin Rose, from The Stand In (ATO); streaming here
Americana's new sweetheart of the rodeo is Caitlin Rose, the clear-voiced Nashvillian who attracts attention north of the border for her Sarah Harmer-ry Canadian-ness. Here, against a softly-rocking arrangement of organ and steel-guitar sounds (which escalate as the ballad progresses), Rose sings about a relationship that drove her to ruthless behaviour.
Caitlin Rose plays Toronto's Garrison, April 5.
SOUL: Boundary Line
By Jesse Dee, from On My Mind / In My Heart (Alligator); streaming here
Retro-soulman Jesse Dee finds an acoustically sound place to plead in his southern-fried style. A stripped down version of a track off his new album shows the blue-eyed Boston native's appreciation for the manners of Otis Redding and Solomon Burke.
Jesse Dee opens for James Hunter at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern, March 4.
VIDEO: Harlem Shake (Miami Heat Edition)
The pro-hoopster champions get larky with their contribution to the latest YouTube meme. Lebron James dons a robe and crown, Mario Chalmers is enthusiastic and fantastic as Super Mario and Chris Bosh is a boom-box-carrying cowboy. "We didn't want under do it," explained all-star Dwayne Wade (who is the disco-dancer in the bear head). Mission accomplished – slam dunk, you might say.