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Julien Baker and Caroline Says Shine on Tribute to Elliott Smith

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An all-star indie lineup pays tribute to one of indie-folk’s most influential artists on Say Yes! A Tribute to Elliott Smith.

[Album]: Say Yes! A Tribute to Elliott Smith
[Artist]: Various
Overall Grade/Rating: 7/10 or B-
Production: B
Lyrics: A
Melody: A
Execution: B-
Subject Matter: A
Replay Value: B
Fav Songs: Ballad of Big Nothing, Say Yes, No Name #3
Least Fav Songs: Between The Bars, Condor Ave
Originality: B
Play or Nay: Play

Elliott Smith is truly an icon of indie music, and a cover album is treacherous ground. Some artists on Say Yes! do an excellent job of bringing a new life to these already excellent songs, others just try to keep up to Smith. There really isn’t a cover that fails completely, but in some instances the original is too good to ever be covered well.

That’s the case for Tanya Donelly’s opening cover of “Between the Bars.” The original just can’t be touched. She gave it a good effort with some cool piano work added behind the acoustic, but she probably could have picked a better song.

The second cover is by far the best, as Julien Baker tackles “Ballad of Big Nothing” masterfully. Baker treats the song like her own, adding her signature spacious electric guitars to Smith’s beautiful songwriting. It’s genuine and emotional, both of which often get lost on covers. Baker had already received comparisons to Smith on her original work and this should dissuade those comparisons.

The title cover “Say Yes” is performed by indie-folk heavyweight William Fitzsimmons. The cover benefits from Fitzsimmons dark voice and it works well on the harmonies of “Say Yes.” Fitzsimmons picked a good song that fit his strengths as a singer.

Austin, Texas natives Caroline Says take on “No Name #3” with excellent familiarity to Smith’s signature style. They add an Either/Or style smoothness as opposed to the choppy performance of the original. It fits the song extremely well and propels the song to new heights.

Overall, Say Yes! comes off as a pretty standard cover album. Julien Baker’s version of “Ballad of Big Nothing” and Caroline Says’ version of “No Name #3” both deserve considerable praise. Check out Baker’s version below and get the cover album and all of Elliott Smith’s music on Apple Music. (Either/Or is one of the best albums ever and is a must have for music fans)

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Cory Uhls
Cory is an aspiring music producer in Nashville, TN. After growing up in Indiana playing drums in his or his father’s various bands, he decided to move to Nashville, where he completed a degree in Audio Production from Middle Tennessee State University. He wants to not only help create great new music, but promote great music that many people never hear about otherwise, introducing people to the vast world of independent music.