New Music Reviews

Courtney Barnett’s cover of Just For You: Celebrating Australian Music

Loyal Prime Time Jukebox listeners know I love Courtney Barnett. To me, she is the embodiment of Kurt Cobain, Patti Smith and the Australian flag. She is featured on the 2020 version of Cannot Buy My Soul. This is a record that celebrates the music of Indigenous folk icon Kev Carmody. His music is incredible. He incorporates social activism, classic folk structures and issues of race in Australia in music which is grounded in place / community. Carmody is a wonderful storyteller who is spiritually connected to the land in how he constantly references Australian places and nature in his songs. This gives his tracks an emotional grounding, which people can relate to. The record’s title itself is the title of Kev’s activist classic Cannot Buy My Soul.

The original Cannot Buy My Soul is an amazing concept. Various Australian folk, rock, country and Indigenous artists cover Kev’s songs on one record, while his original works are on the second record. This variation of the dedication record gives his tracks a fresh interpretation, but also educates people on his work. The first album in 2007 was such a success that they brought out a 2020 version. Many artists like John Butler, Troy Cassar-Daley, Paul Kelly, Dan Sultan, Missy Higgins. Archie Roach, Bernard Fanning and many others return from the 2007 version for this 2020 record. However, there are some new comers like Courtney Barnett.

Barnett takes on the emotionally charged track Just For You. Carmody has stated in interviews that Just For You is a love song for everybody. He wants the track to represent the love he has for people, regardless of difference. In essence, it is a love song about love itself. Barnett explores the song with her classic guitar style, which is a mix of raw pounding on the strings and subtle beauty. Her classic Dylan-like vocal delivery communicates the emotional depth found in Carmody’s original. References to dingos, moonlight and desert winds clearly grounds the song in Australia’s vast outback. However, the core message of love gives the track an intimate and personal aesthetic. By stripping the song back to Courtney sitting down with an acoustic guitar portrays the original’s emotional depth and lyrical clarity. She is able to give the track her own personal style without losing it’s core message.

You would be forgiven for thinking that Courtney put this together in one take around a campfire. She has a gift for giving covers a vulnerability where you believe that she is singing it to you. A wonderful example of this is her heartbreaking cover of INXS’ Never Tear us Apart, which may have been in one take. This cover is an example of how Barnett can go loud on tracks like Pedestrian at Best, but also strip songs back to their emotional core. Honouring the message of Kev’s original track, while giving it a fresh sound, is why this is a perfect cover. On a side note, this track is needed, because we could all use a song about loving each other right now.

Listen to Just For You

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