Experimental musicians playing pop songs would be an accurate description of Don't Shave the Feeling
. In theory that could lead to an enjoyable, if not exactly revolutionary, listening experience and be a fitting, although perhaps implicit or unintentional, tribute to the late Lester Bowie. The key is to allow the covers to say something new about the original and, for the most part, that quality is missing here.
Ez Pour Spout's version of "A-Team" -the Mike Post main title theme for the 1980s television show of the same name- opens the disc and immediately gets to the heart of the problems that are to be found on it. The original tune was pleasant enough and did its job each week of setting the stage for another hour long comedy and action adventure but the composition was hardly challenging and the band doesn't do anything on this version of it but substitute instrumentation in hopes of getting a bit different sound. There is no reference to how the A-Team program helped sell the idea of post-Vietnam War militarism, even if it did feature renegade soldiers who were about as obedient to authority as their cousins in Hazzard County. (I remember once being upset when one of Ronald Reagan's speeches from the Oval Office preempted the admittedly still somewhat fun dialogue between B.A. Baracus and Hannibal. Little did I understand...) Whatever the politics of the musicians involved, it would seem that they would want to use this platform to make some sort of comment on this show, which existed on a level far different than mindless entertainment.
Other cuts like "Back in Black" and "Kashmir" fall into the same trap or largely consisting of changing instrumentation from the originals and creating music that never really needed to be heard. The group looks at two Burt Bacharach songs, including "Don't Make Me Over," and does a fine job of them if you were tired of vocals. The version of "Walk on By" is different from the original but hardly good while the group's cover of Frank Zappa's "My Guitar" sounds more like the first generation than not.
Fortunately there are some stronger moments. Ez Pour Spout's versions of "Tomorrow" and the Four Seasons' "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" are both excellent reinterpretations that go through several escalating statements of the theme before finally become stellar blow outs featuring particularly strong playing from Briggan Krauss. Regrettably poor sound quality towards the end of each cut take a lot of the enjoyment of them.
No such problem exists on the group's cover of Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box." Easily the strongest track on the disc; this cut includes atmospheric Hawaiian guitar from hell sounds and doesn't include the rhythmic changes of the original. Instead, it plods along while deliberately hinting at evil and in the process becomes a moving statement on the unfulfilled promise of Kurt Cobain. If the rest of the cuts had included even half this much to say about the original tune, Don't Shave the Feeling
would be a disc well worth remembering.