God knows I've gingerly put Joanna Newsom's unreal masterpiece of an album into the hands of many. A couple have totally felt it, but many more have not. Its often the sound of her voice that's the challenge. It's challenging, to be sure, and there's no use talking about it anymore.
I almost hoped that someone would do a magnificent cover of a Ys song I could use to demonstrate the astoundingness of her storytelling and wordplay, but alas, when people cover her, they generally attack the shorter, more coverable songs on Milk-Eyed Mender: Some guy does a pretty good job of The Sprout and the Bean, Some guy does a passable and kinda sweet job of Sadie, and the band Final Fantasy does a cool electronic / violin version of Peach, Plum, Pear.
I pulled out the album the other day and just dove in right at its middle act, at Sawdust and Diamonds. It's such a pleasurable part of the album, and it occurred to me that maybe new or reluctant listeners should try this, skipping the enthusiastic Emily and the over played and over discussed Monkey and Bear.
The story that begins with Sawdust and ends with the final howls of Cosmia is a story all its own. And people... oh ye of little patience, it's not like she's writing music for Mensa members only. Sure there's the little Shakespeare reference here and there, but this is not James Joyce.
It is genuinely sweet and funny, and as you listen to it a few times, just let its little phrases, jokes and turns of phrase come to you in tiny bits. It's more accessible than it first appears. C'mon... Give Joanna Newsom another chance. She's worth it.
Note: I did found an aussie singing this kind of sweet Emily and this somewhat more talented performer doing a fairly impressive cover of Sawdust and Diamonds. These really illustrate how difficult it is to adapt and perform these songs.
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