Every record tells a story, a few journeys around the sun before the needle locks into the center and the side is over. A youngish English chanteuse flies across the ocean to hang with a soft-spoken American auteur producer for two weeks at a world-class studio in an unassuming central Virginia neighborhood across the gravel road from a field with some peaceful horses, she soaks up the spring sunshine and the heavy southern air and in this wisecracking den of ace musicians, teaches them a thing or two about how life is lived and music is felt, then they lay down incredible covers both familiar and new, or unfamiliar and old, with an easygoing style that captures the essence of the songs and a bit of the wildness of what it means to be human. The producer has done his homework, she lights fireworks on her first Fourth of July in the USA, the session runs smoothly, lightning is bottled up, and she goes home. And you want to travel with her and you want to travel blind. Alternate title, Flo Meets Matt in America–there’s a good start.
White’s production takes cues from the touchstones of tape that have become recording canon, he flourishes under a benevolent regime of preparation and in-the-moment respect for the musician’s intuition. Feel, what I feel, when I feel, what I feel, when I’m feelin’, in the sunshine. What separates him from the new class of rock producers with magpie access to all the coolest records from all the decades, is his background in jazz and sophisticated understanding of arrangement, in the tradition of a Quincy Jones with more than a few strands of Brian Wilson’s psychedelic DNA. Morrissey injected a dose of spiritual joy into the process, placing an educated faith in White’s direction and providing her own guiding light in the studio, ready with a studied opinion or an inspired suggestion.
Flo’s ethereal voice, timeless to begin with, has matured and strengthened, bringing a richness and magic core to everything it touches, and she really sings the night out. White’s honeydrop vocal caresses offer a complimentary texture or prowl in the lead. These are big songs tackled with zero insecurity and ego, the band fiery and loose, taking the pressure and throwing away conventionality. An album of covers could have slipped into mindless eclecticism, commercial efforts at popularity or crate digging cred, but White and Morrissey simply picked good, sometimes unexpected songs that they love and feel connected to, from Grease (1978), to a spine-tingling take on the title track from James Blake’s The Colour In Anything (2016). Ten tracks that feed the heart and move the body.
A ruby in the rough and a queen of gentle strength. Gentlewoman, Ruby Man.
1. Look At What The Light Did Now (Little Wings cover)
2. Thinking ‘Bout You (Frank Ocean cover)
3. Looking For You (Nino Ferrer cover)
4. The Colour In Anything (James Blake cover)
5. Everybody Loves the Sunshine (Roy Ayers cover)
6. Grease (Bee Gees cover)
7. Suzanne (Leonard Cohen cover)
8. Sunday Morning (Velvet Underground cover)
9. Heaven Can Wait (Charlotte Gainsbourg cover)
10. Govindam (George Harrison cover)