The Mountain Goats leader John Darnielle is a man with fascinating musical tastes — he’s really into death metal and Amy Grant and Dionne Warwick — and the ability to talk and write about those tastes with searing precision. He’s one of our great songwriters, and the Mountain Goats don’t really do that many covers, so it’s very cool that they’ve just picked a few.
The Mountain Goats are the latest participants in the Aquarium Drunkard’s Lagniappe Sessions series, in which artists cover songs that mean a whole lot to them. In this case, the version of the Mountain Goats is Darnielle (on vocals, guitars, and piano) and newest band member Matt Douglas (on woodwinds, keyboards, harmonies, and arrangements). And the selection of songs they’ve chosen to cover is fascinating. They’ve done “Blood Bank,” Bon Iver’s solemn and hymnlike 2009 song. (Third Eye Blind also recently covered that one.) They’ve done “Bridge Of Sighs,” a 1974 song from British prog-folk conjurer Robin Trower. And they’ve done “Save The People,” a song from the 1971 Biblical musical Godspell.
The Mountain Goats versions of those songs are generally rich and finely orchestrated, except for “Save The People,” which is more of a throwback to Darnielle’s early acoustic days. They’re all lovely. And I love what Darnielle has to say about “Blood Bank”:
The Bon Iver song that I initially read as being about junkies in the Pacific Northwest donating plasma for money in the ’80s, because that was a thing a lot of my friends did and a lot of those friends have gone home to God now so this song holds, for me, both great pain, and the sweet memory of friends too beautiful for this world.
You can hear all three covers and read what Darnielle has to say about them at the Aquarium Drunkard.