Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation) covers well-known and some not so well-known tracks from various artists including Bob Dylan, Travis, Big Star, Sordid Humor, Madonna, and Dawes. The band’s sixth studio release is at its best on the traditional country tunes, which include “Amie” by Pure Prairie League and “Oh La La” originally by The Faces. Duritz’ voice effortlessly assumes a delightful southern twang without seeming forced, while the rest of the band masters a bluegrassy sound. CC does such an amazing impression of folk rock it’s hard to believe this isn’t their usual jam.
The album also features a few songs, which are much more in line with CC’s usual sound including the first single, “Untitled (Love Song).” This little-known song by The Romany Rye is incredibly catchy and could easily be mistaken for a Counting Crows original. These particulars make the track a questionable choice as the first single for a covers album. “Like Teenage Gravity” by Kasey Anderson and the Honkies and Fairport Convention’s “Meet On The Ledge” are two more that are practically indistinguishable from a Counting Crows original.
Although Duritz and company give many of the songs a refreshing twist, “The Ballad of El Goodo” by Big Star somewhat misses the mark. I’m not quite sure if it’s Duritz’ voice or the tempo or perhaps the lack of back-up vocals, but this song was better left to the wise hands of Alex Chilton and Big Star.
All in all, Underwater Sunshine is a commendable effort, which shines the brightest while getting down and dirty on some bluegrass blues.
Despite the wide range of genres Duritz and his band pull from, they still manage to successfully integrate their distinct sound while still doing the original tunes justice. This is more than just a covers album, it’s a ode to great music, which has either been forgotten or would have never seen such mainstream exposure. Worth checking out, without a doubt.