Tortoise & Bonnie Prince Billy  

The Brave and the Bold (Overcoat)

Over four years in the making, The Brave and the Bold arose out of Overcoat Records boss Howard Greynolds' desire to get a copy of Will Oldham (aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy) doing Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road." Greynolds recommended Tortoise for Oldham's backing band, and things went so well that the project turned into a covers album.

As expected from such studious rock historians, the material covers both familiar and obscure ground. Surprises and odd juxtapositions abound. Positioning "Thunder Road" next to Minutemen's "It's Expected I'm Gone" works because they're both inflated into grandiose prog-rock songs. And Devo's jittery new-wave dance pop "That's Pep!" precedes Melanie's forlorn ballad "Some Say (I Got Devil)."

While the disc is mostly a charming curio, it's worth scoring, if only for "Cravo e Canela" (originally recorded by Brazilians Milton Nascimento and Lo Borges). With its colorful burst of tropical energy and passionate Portuguese vocals, it's the best Tortoise and Oldham have sounded in ages, and a great antidote for the winter doldrums.

More by Dave Segal


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