When asked about his changing views on faith and Christianity, modern day troubadour David Bazan said, "It was through songs I was first undone." The concept resonated with indie folk artist Justin McRoberts, inspiring him to cover a collection of songs he found significant to his life and spirituality. Covers albums are difficult to pull off, especially when covering such iconic artists as Tom Waits, The Rolling Stones, and Nine Inch Nails. Artists risk becoming a sound-alike or alienating listeners by making the original song unrecognizable. Although McRoberts' has some big shoes to fill on Through Songs I was First Undone, he handles the material with care and delivers a satisfying, if at times predictable, covers album.
While McRoberts chooses an eclectic group of artists to cover, the spiritual themes running throughout each song keep the album cohesive. His collaboration with Audrey Richter on Tom Waits' haunting tale of Georgia Lee is a highlight. McRoberts should have collaborated with Richter years ago, and I hope the two continue to work together. Most of the covers are straightforward, folksy interpretations of the originals. The exception is Nine Inch Nails' tour de force, "Head Like a Hole." McRoberts' slowed the song way down, turning it into a poignant piano ballad. Although Trent Reznor's version will always have my heart, McRoberts' interpretation was a pleasant surprise, and I wish he were as creative with some of his other covers.
Through Songs I Was First Undone is a thoughtful collection of songs that pays homage to some great artists. Those unfamiliar with the originals are in for a treat and those who love the originals will not be offended by McRoberts' interpretations. I wish McRoberts' would have taken a few more risks musically, but overall the album is enjoyable and worth listening to.- Review date: 3/11/10, written by Laura Love of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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