Gordon Withers – Jawbox on Cello: A Benefit for Cal Robbins
A set of Jawbox covers on cello that do justice to the originals and raise money for an important cause.
This album is a tribute to Jawbox, but it’s also a fund-raiser for Callum Robbins, the son of J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines, producer of everyone from MeWithoutYou to the Dismemberment Plan) who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Go to http://www.desotorecords.com/cal/ for more information on the problem and other ways you can help outside of buying the album I’m about to review.
Until I heard this tribute album, I had heard few Jawbox songs and could recognize even fewer. In the interest of determining whether these cello arrangements were good tributes, I looked up the original Jawbox versions of many of the arrangements. I was floored by Jawbox as a band, and then again by these arrangements as they pertain to the originals.
Gordon Withers’ arrangements maintain much of the brooding intensity of the originals, whether in the already-stringbearing “Iodine” or the abrasive, grating “Reel.” The multiple lines aren’t lost in these cello arrangements, and the fact that the cello has a remarkable range really helps out the power of these tunes. These songs are good enough to stand on their own – I’ll be listening to these for a while, because they are cool. They’re pretty in places, intense in others, and just flat out fun to listen to.
But in addition to being good songs, they are great tributes to Jawbox. In fact, I actually played Gordon Withers’ cello version of “Iodine” simultaneously with the Jawbox version, and the two fit together perfectly in timing, mood and arrangement. I felt that the strings actually made the song sound better. The trick doesn’t work as well on louder songs (like “Savory” or “Cutoff”), but it’s still really cool to line ‘em up and see what happens.
It’s simply incredible how good these arrangements are. I like them on their own and as tributes to Jawbox, so if you love Jawbox or unique takes on indie-rock, I would highly recommend picking this up. You will not be disappointed.