Continuing his tradition of putting his stamp on standards and classics from across decades of the blues, John Beckmann’s forthcoming second album as leader of New York’s The Mortal Prophets is a staggering 70% covers. Not that you’d know it, for the most part – these songs have been gutted and reformed to the point where Beckmann could conceivably pass them off as originals.
Take his retooling of ‘Down On Me’ as an example – you’re probably familiar with Janis Joplin‘s version with Big Brother & the Holding Company, but The Mortal Prophets transform it into a sleek, gothic electro-blues song with ease. It sounds like it’s been ripped straight out of the mid-1980s and still resonates today. Here’s Beckmann on his version: “‘Down On Me‘ is a traditional freedom song from the 1920s or earlier that became popular following its remake by Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company. But the version I first heard was a very early recording by Eddie Head and His Family (1930), on the John Fahey compilation called American Primitive Vol 1: Raw Pre-war Gospel (Revenant 206). My version reimagines the song and turns it into an over-the-top electro-blues stomper.”
We’re premiering this new take on ‘Down On Me’ below; Dealey Plaza Blues follows on Friday July 28th. You can alternatively listen to it on Soundcloud.