I often think of the Counting Crows as forever climbing an uphill battle; a band who created their magnum opus with the release of their debut album (August and Everything After) and continues to struggle from beyond its multi-platinum shadow. That being said, they certainly have made some great music in the almost 20 years since their debut release, and there most recent release, Underwater Sunshine is no exception.
In short, it is a cover album with a bluegrass feel. The selection of songs is broad both in the bands they chose and timeline the music was written; covering songs by The Faces and Bob Dylan, to reviving material from bands that the members of the Counting Crows were involved with before their formation. By its own traits a cover album is difficult to rate, since none of the songs are original and are simply creative takes on other artists’ works. At the very least if you are a Counting Crows fan than this album offers some great insight into what the band must be listening to and/or appreciate when it comes to other musicians.
The album is released under the Cooking Vinyl label, the band’s first since ending their long relationship with Geffen. To me it feels like the Counting Crows might be entering a new era and are doing so at a relaxed pace by first testing the waters with a cover album. The style has moved away from their 90’s alternative rock sound to a more bluegrass country feel but, along with Adam Duritz’s playful vocals, is still completely recognizable as the Crows.
The Counting Crows are known for their great live performances along with extending songs and exchanging lyrics throughout their live versions. While this album is strong, their time in studio might have been better spent on releasing a new album of originals and subsequently play on their strengths by really mixing up these covers through the release of a live album.