Counting Crows are a bunch of geeks…but in a good way. Granted, they found a way to connect with the mainstream successfully enough to become a multi-platinum band, but it’s always been pretty plain to see that they’re the kind of guys who could easily come to blows over which was the greatest Smiths album ever. One of the most blatant tell-tale signs is their long-standing practice of inserting expertly chosen cover tunes into their concerts, interpreting songs by an eclectic array of artists, from “The Ghost in You” by the Psychedelic Furs to “Blues Run the Game” by little-known folk trailblazer Jackson C. Frank.
Counting Crows’ new album, Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation), is their first release since ending their long-term association with Geffen Records, so it shouldn’t seem too surprising that their first order of business after stepping outside of major-label land is cutting a covers record. As expected, their choice of tunes to occupy the album reflects the continuing fandom they feel for music despite their rock-star status, so digging into the sources of the songs on Underwater Sunshine should not only allow us to delve deeper into the album, but ought to illuminate our impression of Counting Crows too.
Romany Rye is a newish band named after a ninteenth century British novel, and their mix of moody folk-rock and twangy, country-kissed Americana makes the SoCal outfit seem a little like torch-carriers for Counting Crows’ aesthetic flame. Leading off Underwater Sunshine with a song by an unknown band (one of several such examples here) is further evidence of the Crows’ earnest passion for other artists’ work.