The last 12 months have seen a number of cover albums released by strong male vocalists (Paul Dempsey and Mark Lanegan spring to mind), and Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg throws his hat into the ring with an intriguing twist.
Fellow Travelers is a tribute to bands that have shared the stage with Shearwater, from the stadium-filling pop of Coldplay to the obscurity of David Thomas Broughton. Meiburg complicates the theme further by inviting many of these artists to contribute to other tracks on the album; Clinic plays on The Baptist Generals’ ‘Fucked Up Life’, The Baptist Generals return the favour on Clinic’s ‘Tomorrow’, and Sharon Van Etten (formerly Shearwater’s tour manager) sings on the album’s only original track, ‘A Wake For The Minotaur’.
Shearwater are eager to experiment with their covers; unafraid to discard style and willing to record takes that sound nothing like the original versions. It largely pays off, with the album’s weakest cover also being the most faithful to the original – Folk Implosion’s ‘Natural One’.
With an eclectic set of songs and a willingness to stray from the blueprint, Shearwater have avoided the traditional traps of the cover album and made a rewarding and satisfying record.
Fellow Travellers is out now on Sub Pop/Inertia.