Elton John is not a country artist, but he (along with his lyricist Bernie Taupin) is a hero to songwriters, no matter the style. Therefore, this Nashville ‘reimagining’ of John/Taupin songs is no great stylistic stretch. Also, these songs (mostly) aren’t all twanged-up. Instead, artists perform their selections in much the same way they sing their own songs.
For instance, founding Eagle Don Henley and touring Eagle Vince Gill perform “Sacrifice” as though it were a vintage Eagles song or something from one of Henley’s solo albums. Miranda Lambert gives the relatively unknown “My Father’s Gun” an understated, reverent performance. It sounds like it could have been one of her own if you didn’t know better. Also, this track list reads more like a deep cuts collection, than a greatest hits disc. So, if you’re expecting new versions of your favorite John/Taupin songs, you may be let down.
One big hit, though, falls a little flat. You might have imagined firebrand Miley Cyrus giving “The Bitch Is Back” extra bitchiness. Instead, this recording is sterile and uninspired. Not unexpectedly, though, Rhonda Vincent and Dolly Parton’s cover of “Please” is one of the project’s more countrified inclusions. Over some wonderfully bluegrass-y banjo and fiddle, these two lovely vocalists make beautiful country music together.
Other highlights include Lee Ann Womack’s expressive voice filling out “Honky Cat,” which is given an ever so slightly bluesy feel, and Chris Stapleton’s soulful “I Want Love.” There are easily more winners than losers on
this tribute album. They won’t make you forget about John and Taubin’s originals, but these new voices may make you pick up nuances you might not have noticed before.