Everly Brothers get punked, popped

Green Day’s Bil­lie Joe Arm­strong, No­rah Jones pay trib­ute to famed duo

The Washington Times Daily - - Television - BY CHRIS TAL­BOTT

NASHVILLE, TENN. Bil­lie Joe Arm­strong has a fu­ture in sales if the mu­sic thing doesn’t work out. Just ask No­rah Jones, who had ev­ery in­ten­tion of turn­ing down an in­ter­est­ing but odd pitch from the Green Day front­man be­cause of tour ex­haus­tion when she got on the phone with him.

Twenty min­utes later, she’d agreed to an un­likely part­ner­ship that pro­duced “Foreverly,” a lov­ing recre­ation of an all­but-for­got­ten Everly Brothers al­bum out this week that is one of the year’s more left-field re­leases.

“He just seemed so ex­cited about the project and just kind of open to mak­ing mu­sic,” Miss Jones, 34, said in a phone in­ter­view. “He didn’t re­ally have an agenda other than he wanted to sing th­ese songs with some­one, so it sounded re­ally fun. We kind of made an agree­ment to try a few days in the stu­dio and see how it went with­out any big com­mit­ments or any­thing. So that was nice for me to not feel a lot of pres­sure. We kind of eased in. Hon­estly, it hap­pened so fast. All of a sud­den we were mak­ing the record, and five days later we had most of the songs.”

The project is the first for Mr. Arm­strong since he en­tered re­hab for sub­stance abuse last year dur­ing the re­lease of an am­bi­tious tril­ogy of al­bums. Talk­ing by phone from Oakland, Calif., the 41-year-old singer-gui­tarist said he’s feel­ing great: “It’s a very cloudy and rainy day right now, but for me the sun is still shin­ing.”

The “Foreverly” project taps into those sunny feel­ings and is a rare ven­ture away from his Green Day band­mates. A fan of early rock ’n’ roll — the first record he bought was a com­pi­la­tion of Elvis Presley’s Sun Records work — Mr. Arm­strong stum­bled upon an old scratchy copy of the Everly Brothers’ “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.”

He was trans­fixed by the pi­o­neer­ing rock and coun­try duo’s har­monies — some­thing his band al­ways in­cor­po­rated in their mu­sic through their love of Husker Du — and the dark sub­ject mat­ter lurk­ing in the lyrics, yet ob­scured by the beauty of the Everlys’ sim­ple ar­range­ments. He could see par­al­lels be­tween the mu­sic of Don and Phil Everly and the more mod­ern mu­sic he was also into.

“If you lis­ten to, like, a Joy Di­vi­sion record, it’s re­ally dark,” Mr. Arm­strong said. “And when you lis­ten to the Everly Brothers’ ‘Songs Our Daddy Taught Us,’ there’s so much dark­ness in those old songs. I think mainly that’s just how peo­ple com­mu­ni­cated when it came to mourn­ing and loss. Then with the Everly Brothers it sounds like th­ese two lit­tle an­gels that sing.”

Mr. Arm­strong’s wife sug­gested Miss Jones. The two had met briefly 10 years ear­lier at the Grammy Awards and were struck by how nice each seemed. Once she signed on, Miss Jones says she took over a lit­tle bit. She uses the word “bossy.”

“She was kind of in the driver’s seat, to be hon­est with you,” Mr. Arm­strong said. “It was nice be­cause I was able to kind of sit shot­gun. I had no idea we were mak­ing a coun­try record un­til af­ter it turned out and she said to me, ‘I bet you didn’t know you were mak­ing a coun­try record.’ I had no idea, but I sure as hell liked it.”

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