Here’s something you probably weren’t expecting: An all-new, mostly-covers album from Hurray for the Riff Raff, in recent years one of the city’s most-admired indie bands. After the success of last year’s Look Out Mama, the band’s been working on its followup album of original songs, many of which have been introduced at recent live shows. But meanwhile they’ve released My Dearest Darkest Neighbor, which hits the stores this week.
Not surprisingly, most of the tracks are country/folk numbers that bring out the deep wells of sadness in Alynda Lee Segarra’s lovely voice; among the standouts are Joni Mitchell’s lamenting “River,” Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and Gillian Welch’s “My Morphine.” Segarra also wrote two songs for the album, “Cuckoo” and “Angel Ballad,” the latter based on another Welch song, “Ruination Day.” She also dips into the classic jazz and blues repertoire via Billie Holiday’s “Fine & Mellow” and Leadbelly’s “Western Cowboy.”
So what are the Beatles doing here? Well, those guys seem to fit everywhere — though it’s interesting that Segarra chooses two solo-Beatles songs from soon after their breakup, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” (which didn’t need much tweaking to become a trad-sounding gospel tune) and our free download this week, John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.” Originally an unreleased Beatles song with different lyrics, “Jealous Guy” became a highlight of the Imagine album when Lennon wrote a more powerful set of words, revealing his dark side when it came to relationships. So call it poetic justice that Segarra is, to our knowledge, the first female artist to perform the song.
Of the new disc, Segarra writes: “These songs have been there for me in a dark hour. They’ve guided me down long roads that stretched through time. They have illuminated me on the human spirit, its unbreakable will, its strength and power…. These are soul songs, let’s sing them together.”
FIRST LISTEN: OffBeat has an exclusive freeload off Hooray’s new album for our readers for a limited this week only. Click the player below to listen or download the single, “Jealous Guy” (their John Lennon cover) for free through July 9.