The idea of revisiting someone else’s album is fraught with plenty of downsides. The idea of covering an iconic Ray Charles record is down right ballsy.
Yet, The Band of Heathens manage to pull off the seemingly impossible with finesse, giving a new spin to Charles’ 1972 classic A Message From the People, paying reverence to the original while making it their own.
The album could not come at a better time, when politics have ripped apart our country like no time in recent history. The message of both albums is respect and love, with just the right amount of politics mixed in. The sentiments could easily come off as trite and hokey if phoned in. Thankfully, this brilliant Austin-based Americana group turn in a remarkably solid performance on each and every track here, coming off as soulful and emotionally powerful with each lyric sang and note played.
Even a song like “Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong,” synthesizing the black experience in the early ‘70s comes off legitimate here. One song after another – “Heaven Help Us All,” “They’ll be No Peace Without All Men as One,” “America the Beautiful” – are covered masterfully here. The only track that seems out of place, just like on Charles’ original is the John Denver tune “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
This message from this album is just as relevant now as it was 40-plus years ago and The Band of Heathens deliver that message beautifully.
The Band of Heathens – A Message From the People Revisited/10 tracks/BOH Records/2017