Flo Morrissey Doesn’t Cover Her Voice
The last time an album of cover songs was on my radar was when Xiu Xiu played the music of Twin Peaks. The experimental band did their best at reinvisioning Angelo Badalamenti’s brooding score–eking the most tension from every note. Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White do much of the same in Gentlewoman, Ruby Man. Reengineering songs from Frank Ocean, James Blake, The Bee Gees, and many more, Morrissey and White have made an album that is smooth and airy without losing its groove.
The first two songs of the album, “Look At What The Light Did Now” and “Thinking Bout You,” seem to be strange openers. Neither song shows the chemistry and mastery of others’ licks that Morrissey and White show later in the album. That said, both have their moments, which mainly revolve around Flo Morrissey’s vocal delivery. In and “Look At What The Light Did Now” and “Thinking Bout You,” Morrissey’s soaring vocals far outshine any missteps the duo might have made in these covers (particularly White turning Frank Ocean’s calling card into a bubbly lullaby in his first phrasings).
While this misstep certainly is a big one that happens early on in the record, it is small in the grand scheme of things. Throughout Gentlewoman, Ruby Man, Morrissey and White come together to make toned down, down tempo renditions of wonderful pop songs. Perhaps this is what holds the album together–its conceptual center being the pop song through the ages. In the hands of these two artists, songs lose the trappings of their time and turn into hushed pieces.
No where is this more evident than in the duo’s cover of Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” and The Bee Gee’s theme for Grease. While White and Morrissey do their best to cool these jazz funk and disco funk tracks, their grooves and catchiness shine through even the most singer songwriter-y presentation. This is not an indictment. Something really wonderful happens when one genre is translated into another, and that is most evident in these two tracks. Both “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” and “Grease” remain steeped in their funk but also are given an etherealness that only Morrissey and White can give a track.
And Gentlewoman, Ruby Man works similarly to East of Eden’s cover of Animal Collective. The hybridity that comes from reworking a song from genre into another is undeniable in this collection. From start to end, Morrissey and White show not only a mastery of their instruments but the songs they chose to include. While this album won’t make its listener reexamine how they hear music, it will reframe some classics (new and old). Gentlewoman, Ruby Man spins like a soundtrack to a night in–which is a highly underrated quality to have (especially when the weather turns cold).