The urge to do a covers album for most artists must seem like a pretty strong one. You have the chance to play and record your favourite songs from decades of recorded material. You can broaden your musical horizons without drawing too many questions about your decisions from pesky journalists trying to dissect your inspiration, and you can satisfy your ravenous record label with a brand spanking new CD without the years of mental torment.
Micah P Hinson has decided that this is the way to go. All Dressed Up and Smelling of Strangers is a 16 strong set of classics and lesser known songs all given the Hinson cracked vocals and stripped back instrumentation treatment.
The first thing that you notice while checking the track listing though is that his choices are either very brave or insanely misguided. A good half of this record is of stonewall classic songs like ‘The Times They Are A Changin’’ or ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. The danger of doing this is that there is a strong chance that you will not better any of these songs, and the sad fact is that Hinson has failed to do so here. Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’ is a simple copy of the original which in a way is probably the safest thing to do with a song that’s lyrics are accentuated by the delicacy of the picked guitar. Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ is given Hinson’s traditional acoustic balladry treatment, which at first sounds beautiful and fragile taken out of the context of the Las Vegas glittering lights, but towards the end Hinson’s limited vocal range loses its charm and it just becomes a bit painful.
There are good moments on here, but mostly those of songs that are less cemented in the mind like ‘This Old Guitar’ by John Denver and Emmy The Great’s ‘We Almost Had a Baby’. Classic folk song ‘In The Pines’ still carries that special something whenever its given a new cover treatment. Best known as ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’ and covered by Nirvana (accredited here to Leadbelly who recorded many versions in the 1940‘s), this song has its origins in the 1870’s but has a dark evil edge to it that cuts straight to the bone, which Hinson exploits to the nth degree.
As is always the case with cover albums, you hope that people will listen to this record and feel more inclined to listen to more material from the original recording artists. But for the seasoned music fan All Dressed Up and Smelling of Strangers is a hit and miss collection for fans of Hinson’s vulnerable vocals and innocent arrangements only.
Words: Adam Wilkinson