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Counting Crows Prove That Being ‘Underwater’ Isn’t So Bad

I was excited when I recently learned that the Counting Crows had a new album on the schedule of upcoming releases. My excitement faded when I found out it was a covers record. But I always like to give an artist the benefit of the doubt, especially when it's a favorite like the Counting Crows.

Today, I had the opportunity to hear seven of the songs that will be featured on Underwater Sunshine (or what we did on our summer vacation), the upcoming album from the Crows which is set for release on April 10th.

I think fans are really going to love this album, because as I hit play, I had the thought that hadn't occurred to me previously, "self, you love listening to cover songs from Counting Crows." Shit. Why didn't I think of that before?

One of my favorite Crows covers from the past is their take on "Friend of the Devil" by fellow San Franscisco natives the Grateful Dead. Specifically, I love the version of it that they played live at the Warfield on 12/13/03.

The whole album (or at least the portion that I've heard) has the vibe of what I loved about their Warfield version of "Friend." It's clear that they are invested in the material that they've laid down, but it also doesn't feel overly polished. It has the feeling of a group of friends that got together for a day in the studio, to run through a set of some of their favorites, one take a piece, without going back to smooth out the occasional off moment that might have occurred in their mind.

Some of the material has vintage roots in the Crows history - most fans will probably recognize "Jumping Jesus" by Sordid Humor and "Four White Stallions" by Tender Mercies, two bands with close connections to the Counting Crows family tree. [Incidentally, Tender Mercies featured future Crows guitarist Dan Vickrey and his early work with Tender Mercies helped to put him on the Counting Crows radar and secure the gig. 20 years later Vickrey took care of some unfinished business and released a Tender Mercies album.]

None of it comes off as by the book, boring "anybody could have covered this" kind of material. Quite the opposite. Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, the band's most recent studio album released in 2008 found the band occupying two different sides of the fence. The "Saturday Night" portion was appropriately S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y, night loud, while the "Sunday Morning" side was indeed a perfect fit for a quiet contemplative Sunday morning listen.

The tour behind the album found the band focusing on the joy of collaboration, sharing the stage with Michael Franti & Spearhead and Augustana for a traveling experience called the Traveling Circus and Medicine Show. Eschewing the traditional individual sets, the combined touring package of band members instead spent the evening on stage together, playing each other's songs.

Underwater Sunshine makes a lot of sense as a transition point on the heels of that touring experience. Adam Duritz and crew reportedly recorded at least 20 songs for this album and it's one of those things that you hear it and think "man, I can't wait to hear where they're going to go next."

"Next" as in, "next album." I've been waiting for quite a while to see what their next move would be after Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings. Hearing Underwater Sunshine, I'm fairly confident that the "next" album will be a trip worth taking.

You can hear a sample of the album by dropping your email address in here to get a free download of "Mercy," the second of two Tender Mercies covers featured on the album.

The track listing for the whole thing is here and it looks like if you're lucky enough to be in San Francisco, you'll have the chance to see the band play a couple of special shows, including a date on March 9th at Slim's. Pre-sale information for the shows can be found here.

And if you're going to SXSW, the band will be playing a free show for BMI at Auditorium Shores on Friday, March 16th with Diamond Rug and Tender Mercies opening.

  • Derby

    Happy to see new (cover) material from the band. I also look forward to new original material down the road. I always felt that ‘Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings’ was not as easy to embrace as previous CC albums. There are plenty of good songs on the album, I just felt the album as a whole was more difficult to enjoy start to finish.

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  • Kiko

    Anyone know where the actual vinyl LPs were pressed?  I would buy this 2LP set in a heart beat but only if I knew where it was manufactured.  I am totally fed up with stitching and non fill on vinyl records from Rainbo in L.A. and their ilk! 

    There are at least three great U.S. pressing facilities, i.e. Japan quality, they could have used but I am not risking my cash unless I know who manufactured this.  I believe Tom Biery ex Warner Bros  Vinyl Supremo was involved so that gives me hope.  Anyone?