Perhaps some of it can be explained by the band’s curious combination of style and instrumentation. Depending on who you ask, Crooked Still is a progressive bluegrass band, a folk ensemble, or a string band. This particular track’s lyrics and prominent banjo certainly would incline one towards that type of assessment, and lead singer Aoife O’Donovan’s vocal style always puts me in mind of Alison Krauss. Not a lot of bluegrass bands have a cellist, however, and at the time Hop High — the album “Orphan Girl” is from — was recorded, the group didn’t have a fiddler. So there’s certainly a sense of the exotic about it.
The song itself is not particularly remarkable. Its lyrics are simple and fairly repetitive. The chord progression is very close — if not identical — to Pacabel’s Canon, which means I occasionally try to sing the lyrics to Green Day’s “Basket Case” over it. Then again, I’m a blues fan, which means that I don’t demand a huge amount of structural variety from my listening.
And I think that’s where the real answer lies. I’ve talked before how I love to see performers take something and make it their own, and my collection of cover songs bears that out. One of the things about a simple musical and lyrical structure is that it leaves so much room for personal expression — and in fact that’s often all you have to work with. You can’t hide behind cleverness or artifice. I can’t help but be drawn to that kind of purity of expression.
Which applies equal well to the Leo Kottke cover of “Corrina, Corrina” that just started playing here.