Father John Misty
Father John Misty is the talismanic and outspoken persona of Josh Tillman (former drummer for Fleet Foxes). His last album, God’s Favorite Customer, was released in 2018, but all the songs on new EP Anthem +3, released this month, are covers. It begins with a completely new cover of Leonard Cohen’s Anthem, with the following three have been previously released. Tillman timed the release to coincide with Bandcamp’s commendable No Revenue Share Day, with all proceeds from it going to CARE Action and Ground Game LA. It’s not his first release of 2020 either: in March, Tillman released the live album Off-Key In Hamburg, also distributed through Bandcamp to help raise funds for MusiCares COVID-19 Fund.
Anthem +3 was recorded with his long-time producer Jonathan Wilson in just a few weeks but the sound is quality throughout, owing to their strong and well-developed connection. Cover albums are normally filled with romantic tributes to iconic artists by a smaller musician but it’s clear that Misty considers himself to be a peer of these men: he has acknowledged his admiration of Cohen in particular in the past but there’s the sense that Misty believes that he’s treading the same path along their North American folk and poetic lineage.
It’s not undeserving, either, as Misty is a truly magnetic and moving singer. His voice carries the lines with vitality, especially matching well with Yusuf/Cat Stevens’ soaring Trouble. He also delivers Link Wray’s Fallin’ Rain well, providing it with a folksier feel. The sonically strongest track is the last one, Cohen’s One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong: Misty’s passionate voice is backed by a muscular 25-person band, including the legendary R&B drummer James Gadson.
The strongest compliment, perhaps, that could be paid to Misty is that it’s entirely believable that any of these four tracks could belong on one of his own records (not that his supreme self-confidence needs a boost like that). The lyrics to Anthem surmise the reason behind this cover album best: “The birds they sang/ At the break of day/ Start again/ I heard them say/ Don’t dwell on what/ Has passed away”. Cohen let his words into the musical world; Misty isn’t allowing them to fade away.