It’s not a particularly new or unique idea to record an album of Everly Brothers cover songs. Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) and Norah Jones recently famously did so not long agao, as did The Chapin Sisters — albeit not quite so famously. Now Dead Rock West, a duo comprised of Frank Drennen and Cindy Wasserman, have given us their Everly tribute, It’s Everly Time!
The album’s 13 songs was produced by Mark Linett, whose resume includes high profile work with the Beach Boys, one of Wasserman’s big musical heroes. The album was mostly tracked at Your Place or Mine Recordings, Linett’s studio. Some of the album’s better known backing musicians include DJ Bonebrake (X) and Elliot Easton (of The Cars). On a few of tracks, Cindy’s famous bass playing brother, Rob Wasserman is joined by former Blasters guitarist, Dave Alvin. These two talented men can be heard on “Gone Gone Gone” and “The Price of Love.”
One big reason why the Everly Brothers music is so timeless is because it features beautiful harmonies, which never go out of style. And one of the greatest challenges for anyone tempted to revisit their sounds is that sibling harmony – like the kind the Everly Brothers perfected – is difficult to match when two are not blood relatives. In order to make this music just as close harmonically to the originals, both Dennen and Wasserman learned both vocal parts and even kept the songs in the same keys as the Everlys sang in.
The result of these efforts is a beautiful, retro-sounding album. The jangling guitars on “I Used To Love Her” bring back memories of those hazy, sun-soaked Laurel Canyon 60s rock SoCal days. Similarly, “Leave My Girl Alone” sometimes sounds closer to a Byrds B-side than what we might usually think of when hearkening back to the Everly Brothers’ hey day. Perhaps the best vintage Southern California rock throwback is “June Is As Cold As December,” which rides to a wonderful, jangling electric guitar part.
Above examples point to how Dead Rock West made an effort to record their favorite Everly Brothers songs, and not just the hits. With that said, though, there are some fine hit songs here, as well. These two of awkward moments with “Cathy’s Clown” and rock it up with “The Price of Love.” They also fill “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)” with a large dose of sadness. Sadder still is “It’s All Over,” which is especially funereal.
“It Only Costs A Dime” is built upon a relatively aggressively strummed acoustic guitar part. It’s also fun to hear a lyric that speaks of making payphone calls that – at the time – cost just ten cents. It’s rare to make pay phone calls anymore, let alone even find a working public phone to place them on. Now with the advent of cellphones, there are really no more good excuses not to call somebody.
It may be strange to think this, but the Everly Brothers are still somewhat underrated. They’re just not as universally beloved as, say, the Stones and Beatles. Yet, this collection is testament to the many high quality songs in the duo’s back catalog. It really should be Everly time all the time.