Various Artists

Various Artists

Various Artists

Twistable, Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to Shel Silverstein

Sugar Hill Records

Stuff I knew about Shel Silverstein before I received Twistable, Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to Shel Silverstein: One: I knew that he wrote some of the best poems for children that adults could identify with. Two: I knew that he wrote for Playboy before he became a children’s author.

Stuff I did not know about Shel Silverstein before I received said album: One: He was a prolific songwriter with not only well-known songs to his credit, but legendary classics to his name. Two: He was nominated for a Grammy in 1973.

This album pairs 15 of Silverstein’s best-known poems and songs with some of today’s best indie, country, and alternative-country artists for a compilation that instantly becomes a classic.

Opening with “Lullabys, Legends and Lies,” My Morning Jacket takes this poem and makes it a song to gather around the campfire and sing until you pass out. MMJ is also the only artist to be featured twice. They close the album with “26 Second Song,” a traditional country song that manages to fit a verse and a chorus all into, you guessed it, 26 seconds.

The Grammy nominee was the song “Daddy What If,” which at the time featured a five-year-old Bobby Bare Jr. He is now a daddy and he recreates the track with his daughter Isabella. If you are a parent, you will bawl your eyes out. It’s amazing.

Andrew Bird adds some whimsy to “The Twistable, Turnable Man Returns,” while Dr. Dog takes “The Unicorn” and makes it sound uniquely danceable.

There is some straight-up outlaw country courtesy of Kris Kristofferson and his take on “The Winner,” while The Boxmasters make the depressing “Sylvia’s Mother” their own with their hillbilly country. “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” hits right into your soul when it is sung by the great Lucinda Williams.

The best track is the one that I wasn’t really expecting. “Queen of the Silver Dollar” is perfect old-school country that teams up Sarah Jarosz’s gorgeous voice with the dark-tinged, mostly instrumental gypsy-country group Black Prairie.

There are two songs here, however, that I had no idea Silverstein wrote. Black Francis and Joey Santiago do a great job on “The Cover of the Rolling Stone.” Francis’s vocals are fantastic and Santiago’s guitar is a perfect complement. The other track was so much better when Johnny Cash sang it, but “A Boy Named Sue” was the only track recorded at Cash Cabin Studios and it also features the legendary Sam Bush on the mandolin. Todd Snider does the best he can on the track, but I can’t see anybody else singing the song but Cash.

Twistable, Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to Shel Silverstein is full of fantastic covers of some of Silverstein’s best works. The Bobby Bares (Senior and Junior) produced this compilation and managed to get all of these fantastic artists together to celebrate one of the great writers of the past two generations. If you are even remotely a fan of Silverstein’s work (and I don’t know anyone who is not), then this is a must have. This will help cement Silverstein as a timeless poet and songwriter.

Sugar Hill Records: www.sugarhillrecords.com

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