One of my favorite albums is a re-issue of T. Rex's The Slider, which includes an alternate version that Bolan called Rabbit Fighter. The alternate album has a different sequence, with some of the same songs showing up in different settings. And some of the Slider songs are reworked into completely new pieces. I don't get the chance very often, but when I have a spare ninety minutes (or so) I like to kick back with a bourbon, some headphones and those albums cued up back-to-back. A summer night on the deck is just about perfect for this.
Preston Lovinggood has given us a similar window into his thoughts and processes with last year's Sun Songs and this album, which came out back in February. I've been listening to this album all year (every time kicking myself for not writing about it), and I like it better than its somewhat sparser older brother. And like my prized Slider set, this album takes five tracks from Sun Songs and fleshes them out further. Not just rearranging, mind you, but often major rewrites.
A heavier hand on the production knob lends these (generally) more introspective songs a greater heft. And while I could do note-for-note comparisons of the five "repeated" tracks, that would be silly. What I will say is that listening to these albums back-to-back really exposes Lovinggood's astonishing songwriting chops. When you can put the same song in different contexts and still make it work, that's real songwriting.
I also like the way Lovvinggood is willing to mess with his creations. I don't think he's trying to improve as much as explore what he's written. A recorded song is simply a snapshot in time, while the song itself is a portal into the writer's soul. I can't think of a better example of that than how Lovvinggood has put together these two albums.
When deck weather comes around this spring, I think I'll give Sun Songs and Shadow Songs the back-to-back treatment. They may not replace The Slider in the canon, but they've earned their slot. And I simply cannot wait to hear what comes next.
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