Review: Marley’s Ghost – Jubliee (Sage Arts, 2012)
After twenty-five years together, there’s nothing tremendously surprising about this quintet’s tenth album, but the ease with which they craft country, soul, swing and bluegrass remains terrifically engaging. Recorded in Nashville with Cowboy Jack Clement in the producer’s chair, there’s plenty of tight harmonizing, some rapid finger work and guest appearances by Marty Stuart, Emmylou Harris and John Prine. The song list combines five originals with eight covers, including finely selected songs from Kris Kristofferson, Katy Moffatt & Tom Russell, Butch Hancock, Levon Helm and Bobby & Shirley Womack. The latter’s “It’s All Over Now,” originally recorded by its author as funky, New Orleans-tinged R&B, and famously covered by the Rolling Stones, is winningly arranged here with the twang and harmony of Old Crow Medicine Show. Butch Hancock’s “If You Were a Bluebird” and John Prine’s scornful “Unwed Fathers” (the latter with Harris adding her vocal to Dan Wheetman’s) are especially moving, and the original “South for a Change” offers western swing piano, guitar, steel and fiddle. Like the Band and NRBQ, Marley’s Ghost is an eclectic outfit with deep country roots; the tether gives their catalog continuity and the variety keeps their albums fresh.