Indeed, it seems a lifetime ago now when I sat in the same spot, cup of tea in hand, and had the rapture of writing about deeply expressive soul Father John Misty. He encouraged kindness, as he often does, with the release of spellbinding album Off-Key in Hamburg. The live recording from Hamburg’s Elphilharmoni, accompanied by the Neue Philharmonie, bottled the essence of Misty while offering a scintillating key to those of us who couldn’t attend but always knew what we were missing. Firstly released on Bandcamp, proceeds raised went to Musicares COVID-19 Relief Fund, which has surpassed £80,000 so far.
Dare I say hope was lustier back then, with no full understanding of what toll the pandemic would take. Maybe fancifully writing about seeing live music again was a little premature. It dawned on us that we needed to be thankful for the little things in life, so just listening to music has presented cathartic moments of faith more than ever. With this in mind, on July 3rd, Father J released Anthem +3 to raise funds through Bandcamp again. This digital EP of covers produced by long time friend and collaborator Jonathan Wilson in California includes new track Anthem and old recordings.
The feel of the whole piece is understandably different to Off-Key, still sumptuous I may add, but it has wistful calmness about it. Building from song to song, it commences with Anthem- originally by Leonard Cohen- who let's face it is pretty difficult to describe in a thousand words, let alone a few. In the original and cover, we hear two different tones of voice, but both at the forefront of their versions. This is the most removed from Misty’s usual sound that I have come across veering slightly towards an 80's style ballad, with a compelling arrangement and the tear-jerking lyrics that could not ring truer: “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.”
A slight change of pace comes to us for Failin' Rain, written by power chord champion Link Wray. It’s retained all the features and sincerity but holds a softer sound than its predecessor. Next, the energy lifts with a superb combination of bass and organ in Trouble by British folk star Yusuf/Cat Stevens. It is positively a song that FJM could have written in this present day; it certainly holds several elements that have been inherited and delivered by him.
Sure as the sun rises each day, there will always be a showstopping piece from our Misty, actually you can often discover a few on every album and One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong, bringing us back to Cohen again, is where you’ll find it on Anthems +3. The use of reverb and slightly cracked voice in places is handsome, and the whole orchestral piece is frankly one of the best covers I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.
All four tracks encourage each other and work together to leave your face tear streaked again, how does he always manage to do that? Money raised from Anthem +3 will benefit Care Action: an international humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty that focusses on working alongside poor women, and Ground Game LA: a community-driven organisation dedicated to building power for residents. It is not the first time that our folk cloaked hero has used music to help others, and it won't be the last; for him and us as one: Literally, music is the air we breathe.
Article by Beverley Knight