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JD Souther - Natural History

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 23 / 7 / 2011

JD Souther - Natural History
Label: E One Records
Format: CD


Contemporary-sounding latest album from influential American singer-songwriter JD Souther, which finds him revisiting his old songs, some four decades old, and putting a new take on each of them

An artist revisiting songs they composed years ago and presenting the results as their latest album is nothing new. In fact many singer/songwriters have done this with excellent results. Jimmy Webb, Chip Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Susanne Vega are a few of the names that come readily to mind. At sixty-five years of age JD Souther has taken eleven songs that he wrote, or had a hand in writing, and has successfully added a new slant to each and every one of his selections, making this collection sound like a refreshing set of new songs. ‘Natural History’ is Souther’s first album since ‘If The World Was You’, which was issued in 2008, and he continues to show the jazz flourishes that he displayed on that former set to this collection of his older songs. There are songs here that, to be honest, have got to be all too familiar over the years. ‘Best Of My Love’ will, of course, like many JD Souther songs, be forever associated with the Eagles. The version which Souther delivers here thankfully doesn’t bring David Cassidy to mind for even one second, so many of us can at last appreciate the beauty in that song without cringing. Vocally, not only on this particular song but throughout the whole album, Souther is on particularly fine form. The slight jazz touches add a whole new dimension to the song and the years have added not gruffness but almost a warm, mellow feel to Souther’s vocals which makes these already familiar songs even more instantly appealing. A good song never loses its magic, and many would chose ‘You’re Only Lonely’ as the best song that Souther recorded but those concerned that this new version wouldn’t live up to the original won’t be disappointed. Souther’s new take on the song here is even more affecting than his original cut; his vocals are perfect and it’s hard to believe that those sounds are coming from a sixty five year old. The song sounds like it was written only yesterday, and Souther has never sounded as sweet as he does on this track. It’s a remarkable vocal performance. For an artist who has spent his entire musical career in the country / folk field it’s a brave move by Souther to take this selections of ballads, and add touches of jazz, soul and even pop into the mix. By doing so Souther has given this collection of some of his best known songs a completely new lease of life. Even the most familiar songs (obviously the tracks that were originally recorded by the Eagles) are given a well-needed overhaul. The stripped down version of ‘New Kid in Town’ that Souther delivers here again reveals a beauty in the song that has been lost through the years due to the familiarity of the Eagles' version. John Jorgenson’s classical guitar playing, coupled with another outstanding vocal performance, from Souther make this thirty five year old song sound new. There’s not one song that you’d want to skip over but this latest reading of ‘I’ll Take Care Of You’ with Souther accompanied by just piano has to rank as a highlight on this collection. It displays the gentle emotion that Souther injects into each and every song on ‘Natural History’ brilliantly. Given his history with not only the Eagles but with Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Chris Hillman, yep, the almost endless list of West Coast musicians it’s hardly surprising that his songs stand the test of time. But maybe the most surprising thing about ‘Natural History’ is that Souther is still as vocally strong as he ever was and that his songs fit these new arrangements so perfectly. Songs, some of which are nearly four decades old, sung by a 65 year-old yet which sound contemporary in 2011; no mean feat.

Track Listing:-
1 Go Ahead And Rain
2 Faithless Love
3 You're Only Lonely
4 The Sad Café
5 Silver Blue
6 New Kid In Town
7 I'll Take Care Of You
8 Little Victories
9 Prisoner In Disguise
10 Best Of My Love
11 'll Be Here At Closing Time

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You're Only Lonely (2011)
Basic reissue for superb 1979 third album from Detroit-born singer-songwriter JD Souther, who wrote several of the Eagles' best known songs

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