I Can Tell You Why (Wilco should cover the Eagles)

YouTube served up the Eagles‘ “I Can’t Tell You Why (Official Video)” this morning. I’ve watched it before, nothing I haven’t already seen but I sat through it again because it’s just a damn good song. Like every Eagles hit, I’m sure this was a staple of my childhood – I don’t remember my parents owning any Eagles albums but their songs are as familiar to me as any Beatles songs so I must have heard them on the radio. Side note: When I saw the Eagles in 2018, I thought for sure there’d be songs I didn’t know in the set list but, to my surprise, I knew them all and every time they’d kick off the next song, I’d think, “Oh yeah, how did I forget about this one?”

Anyway, back to “I Can’t Tell You Why” – it’s the epitome of soft rock, the opening keys that sound like an intro to a TV drama (Law and Order, St. Elsewhere, Hill Street Blues, etc), the deep bass accompaniment and then Timothy B Schmit‘s vocals which, when they kick off, always make me think this could have been a Bee Gees song. Reading on Wikipedia, Don Henley and Glenn Frey gave it an R&B feel after Schmit presented it to them. That’s the first time I’ve heard this described as an R&B song and I can hear it now.

The guitar solo is understated, nothing flashy but full of character. Glenn Frey recorded it but in the video, Don Felder is seen playing it. As I was listening, the guitars reminded me of what Nels Cline has brought to Wilco – though the solos aren’t interchangeable, I was reminded of Cline’s work on “Impossible Germany” which got me to wondering (though I was pretty sure I knew the answer) – “Has Wilco ever covered the Eagles?” In my surface level internet sleuthing, I don’t believe they have. So, no time like the present, right?

Give this a listen, close your eyes, imagine Jeff Tweedy singing Schmit’s part, John Stirratt covering Schmit’s bass parts, Pat Sansone playing the electric piano and Nels Cline ripping the Frey solo. It works, right?

Listen: Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker, Yim Yames record songs based on Woody Guthrie lyrics

Did you know about this? I just read a 3-star review of the New Multitudes CD – a collection of songs built upon unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics by Jay Farrar (Son Volt), Will Johnson (Centro-matic), Anders Parker (Varnaline), Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket) – in the new issue (Paul McCartney-cover) of Rolling Stone. The magazine’s website did a feature on the release which one person commented, probably rightfully so, “Wasn’t this album called Mermaid Avenue?”

I’m snagging this from Facebook because it explains the project better than I can:

New Multitudes is an intimate interpretation of American icon and musical legend Woody Guthrie’s previously unrecorded lyrics from a dream team of Americana torchbearers: Jay Farrar (Son Volt), Will Johnson (Centro-matic), Anders Parker (Varnaline), and Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket). What makes this album such a rarity in today’s music world is the allowance of the songs’ infectious simplicity to stand alone in all their glory. In doing so, Farrar, Johnson, Parker, and Yames have paid the greatest compliment to Woody Guthrie and the collaborative spirit he so greatly embodied. This is an album which seamlessly converges the sepia-toned essence of the time honored past with the risks needed to forge the future.

There’s a small handful of tour dates scheduled to promote the release of New Multitudes.