Bob Dylan? Hinson wipes the floor with mumbly passion Bob could only dream of, without needing to plug in to do it. Frank Sinatra? Hinson does it his way without breaking a sweat. Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, George Harrison, Leonard Cohen…. he takes a who’s who of everyone who’s ever been anyone and shows that, no matter what they can do, he can at the very least match them.
Whether deliberately or not, he not only takes songs we all know and love to make his own, he also takes songs that in many cases have been reinvented more than once already. This shows not only his ability to take on their original composers, but also all those who’ve worshipped at the altar en route. It takes a special skill to take a song like Sinatra’s My Way, which has been covered so many times before, and still bring something fresh and new to the table. Or to grasp the Leadbelly classic In The Pines – better known to Nirvana fans as Where Did You Sleep Last Night? – and make it sound as relevant today as it ever has.
Hinson even finds time to introduce listeners to music not even his most loyal followers will have encountered before, such as Not Forever Now by Denver indie stalwarts Centro-Matic; play spot-the-obscure-instrumental with Santo and Johnny’s Sleepwalk (it inspired George Harrison’s guitar riff on Free as a Bird, fact fans); and allow Seattle scene obsessives to not only feel smug that they recognise a song Nirvana introduced them to, but also to remember Pedro The Lion.
No matter what he tackles, he makes each and every song sound timeless. The music here spans three centuries and more than a dozen genres but Hinson brings uniformity to them – sparse, dark, heavy acoustics dripping with fragility – while at the same time gives something new to each one. This theme of ancient and modern runs right through to the formats you can buy the music in – MP3s for the dull technocrats amongst you, double vinyl in a ’50s style gatefold sleeve for those with soul.
Covers albums can make or break a career. They can be an albatross around the neck of their creators that will never be forgiven, or a reinvention that showcases the artist’s skills to a new generation of fans who will forever thank them for the directions they pointed in and the music they laid before us that we may never have discovered alone. Hinson falls resolutely into the latter camp. A brilliant singer-songwriter in his own right, a dark folk hero from the 21st century alt.country crossroads, he measures himself against modern music’s great and the good and never once is he found wanting.