From Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley to the late Eva Cassidy, there are some artists who create such a strong, distinctive impression with their versions of popular songs, that they feel more like re-inventions and inspire us to want to hear their takes over and over rather than the original. Like these legends, New Jersey bred, London based sophisticated pop, soul, jazz and blues vocalist Allen Austin-Bishop brings a unique versatility and straightforward emotional honesty to a fascinating, eclectic batch of songs on his latest album Why Go?
Material wise, several unique themes emerge as he effortlessly brings forth these thoughtfully arranged, rhythmically varied tunes. First, he has a penchant for British pop/rock, taking his sweet jazzy and smoky time on Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know?”, Elbow’s “buffalo ghosts,” Faithless with Boy George’s “Why Go?” and Sigala and Ella Eyre’s longing and romantic “Came Here For Love.”
Next, Austin-Bishop celebrates iconic American female singers with charmingly seductive caresses of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning Heartache,” Pink’s album cut “You Get My Love,” Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen” and a delightfully obscure pre-stardom Whitney Houston song, “Memories,” when she was lead singer of a group called Material.
Finally, there’s his penchant for obscure showtunes from well- known musicals (most impressively, a joyful romp through “Ring of Keys” from Fun Home) and a love for classic gospel blues via the lively church hymn “Pass Me Not.” Why Go? is Austin-Bishop’s third album of non-holiday covers and probably his least thematically focused – but wow, who cares about sticking to one train of thought when you’re having this much fun? Once you hear the AAB versions, the originals, great as they are, will probably seem to ever so slightly lack the same soul and imagination.