An interesting and/or amusing playlist might be made of songs with the same title as a much more famous song, but which are new songs, not covers of the famous ones. “Hey Joe” goes right on that playlist, as this is assuredly not the Jimi Hendrix song of the same name.
What we have instead is a windswept, precisely orchestrated bit of minimalist pseudo-blues. Featuring lonesome percussion, a cleanly picked acoustic guitar, and an offbeat, handpicked blend of brass and woodwind, “Hey Joe” swivels on the lyrical structure of traditional blues, with its repeating lines, but veers into idiosyncratic territory when it comes to chord progressions and instrumentation. The more I listen, the more taken I am by the accompanying quartet of tuba, trumpet, trombone, and tenor sax that enters around 1:26 and oom-pahs and croons its way across this “simple bitter tale of love,” as Green herself has described the song. I can almost believe that the musical accompaniment somehow preceded the song itself, that Green concocted her words and melodies specifically to hang on the weighty, unorthodox foursome who give testimony from a deeper place. Cool song.
A self-proclaimed “tragi-comic pop clown” (so she says on her Twitter page), Liz Green is a singer/songwriter from Manchester, England who came into the public eye in the UK when she won the Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition in 2007, which is apparently a pretty big deal. She released a 7-inch single in 2008 and then just kind of disappeared. Until now. Her debut full-length album, O, Devotion!, came out in the UK late in 2011 and sees its American release next week, on the PIAS label.