There’s something to be said for the ability to recognize a great song. However it’s equally important to know how that particular tune can be adapted and reconfigured to fit one’s own individual template. After all, the challenge comes with trying to cover a song in a way that maintains its singular sound and that emulates rather than imitates its original read.
The Cadleys recognize the value in treading the line between originality and redundancy, and doing so in a way that does justice to both their own abilities and the songs’ essential elements. On their new album, Duets & Ballads, they manage to tread that narrow divide and do so in a way that makes the material their own. As a result, the original material — Sleepwalkers, Mourning Doves, Five Days in May, and Could This Be Love? — finds an ideal mesh with those songs in the set that qualify as well worn covers.
The Cadleys’ take on Bill Monroe’s mournful Kentucky Waltz, and Ralph Stanley’s lithe Little Birdie, retain a tone and treatment that doesn’t veer decidedly from the originals, but on the lesser known offerings such as Light of Day by Jonathan Byrd, the Louvin Brothers’ I Wish You Knew, and Seven Year Blues, and George Jones’ We’re Gonna Hold On, the Cadleys take the opportunity to put their stamp on the proceedings and offer their listeners certain songs that deserve to shine beyond the pale veil of obscurity.
Of course, certain selections — Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman’s venerable Sin City and Harold Arlen and Yip Harbburg’s immortal Over the Rainbow always find any attempt at a cover inevitably compared to the originals. Consequently, the duo’s emotive harmonies and Clay Hess’ fluttering mandolin play on Sin City doesn’t deviate from the venerable version by the Flying Burrito Brothers, while Cathy Cadley’s evocative vocal on Over the Rainbow affirms its beguiling appeal without any attempt to deviate from the original read.
With an astute ensemble supporting their efforts, John and Cathy Cadley maintain a devotion to a sound that gives added emphasis to melodies that are, by equal measure, both enduring and endearing. Indeed, these duets and ballads make an indelible impression.