Friday, April 5, 2013

Greg Ashley Covers Leonard Cohen.


I've always struggled to get into Leonard Cohen; a bit of my trouble might have to do with the way I discovered him. As a kid of about eight or nine, my dad had sat me down to watch a live performance of his, and twenty years ago, as a child, I'd found Cohen a bit of a serious cheeseball. A decade later, I'd wound up in college, where it suddenly became trendy to love Cohen -- get stoned and drink coffee and listen to a scratched-up vinyl copy of Songs of Love and Hate, what have you. The whole thing was a bit too college for me. I was too busy collecting Billy Childish records and working on my snark to sit and discuss the poetry of "Chelsea Hotel No. 2," anyway. It should also be mentioned that, seeing as Cohen's voice is more that of poet than singer, I'd always considered him more a songwriter than a musician, the ideal writer to see his music performed by others. But I never cared much for him.

Skipping ahead, then. I've been following former Gris Gris and Mirrors brainchild Greg Ashley for close to a decade, from the beginning of the Gris Gris and beyond its end, and since his brief return in the form of a mini-tour with King Khan and the Gris Gris in 2011, he's been more or less quiet, save for a bit of production work here and there. As it turns out, however, he's come out with a new release, a full cover of Leonard Cohen's 1977 album Death of a Ladies' Man, and since November 2012, Ashley's version has sat quietly on Bandcamp, more or less waiting to be found, or not.

The concept of Greg Ashley covering an album filled with brass, jazz and disco, paying tribute to a record with Phil Spector's name written throughout, is somewhat curious, as Ashley's presence tends to be rather small. He's an awkward, quiet performer, and on record, a delicate guitarist. So here he is, now a man of his early 30s, playing relatively loyal to Cohen's recording, trying with all his might to growl through his teeth. His covers are true, and I'm happy for his return, but I'm not all that eager to hear him sing "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On." Maybe this will be your thing.

Stream and purchase Death of a Ladies Man.

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