Despite the popular narrative that you may have come in contact with, cover albums are by no means throwaway efforts from artists who are trying to establish their sound on the backs of others, and that’s exactly what singer Barbara J. proves in her second LP, A Box Full of Records, which is out now everywhere that independent music is sold and streamed. The cornerstone of the album is its three stellar singles, which feature Barbara J tackling #1 hits from The Carpenters, Poco and The Korgis, with each bearing only somewhat of a resemblance (outside of their conventional structures) to the original material. A Box Full of Records is not your average cover album, but more importantly, its creator is hardly your average cover artist.
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In the single “Crazy Love,” which was made famous by Poco, Barbara J. shows off a masterful command of the lyrics that, to me at least, proves that she could probably take on any set of verses that you put in front of her and emerge with melodies akin to a king’s ransom. There’s a physicality in the strings guiding her that can’t be beat, but it creates a really acrylic contrast between the instrumentation and the vocal that makes the entire mood of the song so much more palatable to listeners from a bevy of angles. Poco’s Mike Webb drops by for a guest spot in the song, but even with one of the original members of the band who composed the piece present in this track, the star of the show is always undisputedly Barbara J. and her singing.
A BOX FULL OF RECORDS: https://open.spotify.com/album/5RMfR1Hp0kgHraxMXHt9Ar
“Everybody’s Gotta’ Learn Sometime” might be the centerpiece of A Box Full of Records just on the strength of its unforgivingly entrancing grooves alone. Much like the classic version by The Korgis, Barbara J.’s rendition of the song boasts a meticulous master mix that doesn’t let any of the radiant rhythm slip into the cracks and out of our reach. If the sonic waves of texture aren’t enough to get your heart synchronized to the beat of the track, then the pulsating vocal from Barbara J. will, as it drives the tenacious flow of the music just as much as her backing band does in this song.
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“Rainy Days and Mondays,” the third single from A Box Full of Records, has a lot of layers to it, but its sharp, reconstructed hook makes sure that we’re always transfixed on the homespun harmonies binding the vocals and the instrumental melody together. In these three heavenly slabs of pop mysticism, Barbara J. gives us her own take on some of pop music’s most recognizable ballads, but that’s not the only reason why I think that her latest record is one of the more accessible LPs to be released this season. It doesn’t ask a lot from us in exchange for an ocean of acerbic musicality, and though some young Millennials might not be super-familiar with these tracks in their original form, this talented artist is making sure that their legacy doesn’t burn out in the 21st century. With Barbara J.’s help, these songs will inspire a new generation of musicians with ambitious goals similar to her own.