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Tortoise: Deep Covers

The premise behind The Brave and the Bold­–putting post-rock innovators Tortoise in a studio with country-tinged singer Will Oldham (Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Palace Music)–sounds like an episode of an indie rock reality show. But after the assembled musicians finished the two-week-long recording sessions that produced the album, the combination turned out to be a genre-splicing success. "It was really natural," said Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker of the collaboration. "Will is something else. His stamina is crazy. That dude would sing all day."

Parker and Tortoise drummer John Herndon recently told XLR8R about the process of selecting and reworking the record's offbeat covers, which span legendary punk tracks, country ballads, and Brazilian grooves.

"Cravo é Canela" by Milton Nascimento
"All of us in Tortoise love Brazilian music and we're big fans of Milton. He's arguably the most famous Brazilian musician. He's like Michael Jackson down there." Jeff Parker

"I think Will just learned Portuguese phonetically for this track. I think he did a great job singing, though I don't know Portuguese. Maybe people in Brazil and Portugal are going to hear it and get pissed and ban him from the country." John Herndon

"Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen
"We made this one a slow jam by changing all the chords to minor chords and slowing down the tempo." Jeff Parker

"It was chosen partly because the fellow that runs Overcoat Recordings, Howard Greynolds, loves The Boss. I think it's great, and I don't think that about a lot of stuff I've recorded. I still really love to listen to it." John Herndon

"It's Expected I'm Gone" by The Minutemen
"Doug McCombs (Tortoise's bassist) should run the Minutemen fan club. He loves them like no one else I know. This cover is different than the original–a little slower and chunkier–but we were trying to stay in the rock spirit. Parker added this sort of Southern rock guitar lick at the end, which made all of us go nuts." John Herndon

"That's Pep!" by Devo
"This one was kind of difficult. I'm not sure we totally hit the mark. It's really hard because they are one of my all-time favorite bands and that kind of makes it more difficult. I don't think you can get much more perfect than Devo." John Herndon

"Pancho" by Dan Williams
"Will wanted to do this one because he thought it was really, really hilarious. It's got this kind of homoerotic undertone, just the whole thing with these two cowboys; it kind of shed a different light on the story of the Cisco Kid. As a tune, there's not really much to it. It's pretty straightforward and goofy." Jeff Parker

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