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Crooked Fingers

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There's something about a well-executed cover song that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Maybe it's the epiphany when you realize, "Hey, I know this song!" or maybe it's just our collective desire to hear our familiar favorites retooled by another artist whose work we admire. Reservoir Songs, the Merge debut of Chapel Hill's Crooked Fingers, is a five-song EP that features carefully selected tributes to some of Eric Bachmann's favorite songwriters. "Sunday Morning Coming Down," a classic from enigmatic Rhodes scholar Kris Kristofferson, opens the disc with singer- guitarist Bachmann's voice evoking Tin Pan Alley-era Neil Diamond. Then, as if on cue, he digs deep for a cover of Diamond's "Solitary Man," bringing to bear the masterful banjo work of Robert Lloyd Martin. And speaking of banjo, the arrangement of "When U Were Mine" from Prince's unforgettable debut Dirty Mind, pairs Martin's banjo with the moody cello of guest star Eunice Kang, creating a spare piece of homage to the Purple 1. The sound expands on the haunting Springsteen offering, "The River," putting all hands on deck for a rich version of this working-class hymn. The closer, a reworking of the Queen/Bowie duet "Under Pressure," leaves out the signature opening bass line (could it be that Vanilla Ice ruined that for everyone?) and still manages to rock. Covers or no, this disc has plenty of depth and clarity, whetting the listener's appetite for more original songs from Bachmann and company.

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