History repeats. Sometimes this is an ominous message, and sometimes not. For musicians, many of which have been undermined by the reeling health of the music industry at large in recent years, lessons can be learned from history. Case in point - the Watson Twins's new EP of cover songs entitled Night Covers.
The lesson learned here is that cover songs can often establish an emerging artist better than their own original songs. For all the acknowledgement that the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan rightfully receive as songwriters, people often forget that many of their earliest recordings were of other people's songs. In each case, these covers weren't chosen as a shortcut. Instead, they ultimately served as a statement of artistic purpose for these legends.
The Watson Twins have done the same with Night Covers, and it couldn't have come at a better time for these two sisters. They initially emerged as part of the new Laurel Canyon scene that is anchored by transplanted Southerners like Chris Robinson and Jonathan Wilson as well as artists like Jenny Lewis, who cites great Southern artists like Bobbie Gentry as a major influence. The Watson Twins soulful harmonies made them this scene's Sweet Inspirations as they provided great vocal support and even getting recognized billing on Jenny Lewis's first solo album Rabbit Fur Coat. That led to a fantastic self-released EP (Southern Manners) and a record deal with Vanguard.
While Southern Manners proved that the Twins could write great songs, their time on Vanguard didn't move things forward for the Watsons as their initial promise seemed to indicate. They made two fine albums, but there seemed to be a sense that the Twins were chasing an existing audience rather than defining and growing one of their own. Now off Vanguard, this new self-released EP finds them back on track as they properly define what the Watson Twins are as musicians.
This 6 song EP features covers by The Turtles, Eurythmics, PJ Harvey, Sade, The Black Keys, and Bill WIthers. These intelligent choices show the world, at least anyone wise enough to pick up a copy of Night Covers, what the Watson Twins embody artistically - 60s pop, 80s pop, modern indie, and deep soul.
80s music and its reliance on technology tended to bring a sense of emotional distance and the best artists from that era learned how to use that to a song's advantage. 60s music has an immediacy of soulfulness that all great musicians looked to mine. Night Covers shows how the Watson Twins can mine both eras' sensibility while still creating their own unique sound. It seems odd to say that vocal can be eerie and soulful at the same time, but the Watsons are able to accomplish just that here.
The Watson Twins have successfully regained their momentum with Night Covers. As they draw from this deep creative well uniting their diverse influences, this EP should serve as a guide for their future recordings. By looking back at key influences, the Watson Twins have learned to trust their instincts once again.