I really like Fiona Apple. She’s an interesting musician, and there’s something overwhelmingly sensual about her best material that I find irresistible. She is sometimes just crazy good.
She is also freakin’ impossible to cover tidily and well. It’s usually smarter just to take the original as a suggestion and make it over. One of my favorite covers of anyone, ever, actually, is Bettye LaVette’s version of Apple’s “Sleep to Dream,” a song I adore in its own right. LaVette’s band brings the funk to the arrangement of a very raw, attitude-heavy song, and this lets her own it just as well as Apple herself did (if in a much different mode). Of course, I admire LaVette’s work in general a) because she is awesome as a performer and b) because she’s made it her business to be a thoughtful interpreter of songs. As I sit here, mucking about with other people’s stuff and trying to make something musical happen, I find myself often wishing I had some of her skill.
Aaaaaaanyway, now that I’ve gotten all Debbie Downer on myself, I should say something about today’s cover offering: Fiona Apple’s ultra-sexy “Slow Like Honey.” It’s a delicious demi-jazzy piano groove, nice and slow and sultry, and I am here to tell you that
fucking piano players and their fucking complicated chords are a fucking pain in the ass to cover on a non-piano instrument, I mean seriously, what the hell is a G11 for the love of all that’s holy it was not exactly easy to find a way to do it. I tried figuring out a violin/viola/bass arrangement, I tried to make it happen on the 6-string for some acoustic action, I even dinked around with a version that was only bass and drum fill, and it all just…flopped. Badly.
Then I remembered that I own an electric guitar — an electric tenor guitar, in fact — and got an idea. So I chopped down the chords a bit (a must when you’ve only got four strings to work with), cut a few out completely, edited a few changes that I just couldn’t make work, and changed it from a slow, hot piano groove to a slightly faster echoing wobbly guitar thing. I cut the percussion altogether, and added a simplified bass line to fill it all out a bit. It’s too fast, I think (I cut more than a minute off the thing!), and there are some random noises I just didn’t have time to fix (player error), but if it’s a failure, I think it’s at least an interesting failure.
I ran the bass and the guitar both directly into the Mackie, and used a simulated amp and pedals in Garage Band to get the guitar sound I wanted. The vocal, as usual, was done using a condenser mic run through the Mackie to the computer. If I’d been better at keeping my fingers pickin’ on the metronome’s pace, I probably would’ve thrown percussion in there from GB’s loop collection, but nothing I tried sounded good, so I let that idea go.