As Leonard Cohen's new album, Old Ideas, diffuses its way into the pop-culture universe, Columbia Records is prodding it along with Old Ideas With New Friends, a compilation of contemporary artists covering their old Cohen favorites.
The "new friends" gathered here include Bill Callahan ("So Long, Marianne"), Bradford Cox of Deerhunter and Atlas Sound ("Seems So Long Ago, Nancy"), Cults ("Everybody Knows"), The Mountain Goats ("The Smokey Life"), Cold War Kids ("There Is A War") and more. Fact: Leonard Cohen's songwriting is brilliant and timeless. But, as the record-purchasing population of Earth works its way towards three generations removed from Cohen's original peak, an understanding nod goes out to Columbia for re-framing his legacy for the younger crowd... Keep in mind, this guy was born in the mid 1930s, hitting his "handsome older man" phase 'round about "I'm Your Man" (1988), when it's safe to say the bulk of Cold War Kids' fan base was barely yet born.
The most recent new friend of the series is Nicole Atkins. While this girl is an immensely talented writer of her own material, her canon of covers is vast. She's brought her wild and woeful vocals to tunes by Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones, Love, CAN, Bill Withers, Cotton Mather, Nina Simone, Nada Surf, the Doors... the list goes on. Last time this writer witnessed her live at Brooklyn's Glasslands, she pulled a hodgepodge of her indie rock colleagues onstage for a rendition of "Mind Games" by John Lennon. But let it be known, she is an especially big fan of Leonard Cohen.
Atkins' ex-label Columbia had this in mind when they came knocking on her door for a New Friends track. Lucky for everyone, she nabbed "Bird on a Wire," which, she explains, she bawled through when she once saw Cohen perform live at Radio City. "I couldn't believe that no one had already claimed this song. I really loved Johnny Cash's take on it as well, so I thought it would be great to do a hybrid." Simply and gracefully arranged, Atkins and keyboardist Dan Chen perform it with appropriate reverence -- and reference -- to both Cohen and Cash. The latest installment from Old Ideas With New Friends, it premiered this week. Watch it below:
At the moment, Atkins is bouncing between Brooklyn, Memphis, and Sweden writing psychadelic, soulful new tunes for her forthcoming record. And her old friends at Columbia will continue to add to the New Friends series here. Coming up soon is, purportedly, a track from Cass McCombs. Fingers crossed for "Lover, Lover, Lover." Or "Is This What You Wanted." Or, well, pretty much anything from New Skin for the Old Ceremony.