Have you ever tried to cover a Paul Simon song? Outside of "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard" it is a difficult feat, far more than one might imagine. Even in his contained, narrow little tone, Simon's got a vocal range and accuracy that Stevie Wonder would drool over, lyrics like delicate portraits, and a sense of orchestration that is quite complex and sometimes weird. Like in this song. I never really understood the hype behind it, and find his segue from a Randy Newman-esque ballad into a shmaltzy Broadway tune into a flute-heavy interlude into a saxophone solo into a film score ending more than jarring. That's what makes it surprising that Deer Tick-- one of my favorite bands, but one that leans far more heavily on heart and soul than on careful practice and training-- would choose to cover one of Simon's songs, let alone one as sprawling and nostalgic as "Still Crazy After All These Years."
After all, Jon McCauley, the man behind the Deer Tick moniker, couldn't be more different from Paul Simon. His voice is ragged and worn where Simon's is trained and polished; his music is an entirely different breed of folk than Simon's-- heartfelt, down-home and straightforward where Simon's is dense and composed; he is a hard-living, extremely young band frontman where Simon is a rather tame, aging folk legend as both solo and duo. But McCauley does more than justice to the ballad, throwing some personal angst behind those minor piano chords and avoiding that weird middle interlude entirely. Plus, when McCauley, a force to be reckoned with during his live show as he pours liquor into the mouths of the crowd and teases them with provoking banter, croons that famous line "I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers," it sounds like he means it.
Hear the cover and the original after the jump:
-- Caroline Klibanoff
Melodious Intoxication, Thursdays 12-2 pm on WGTB