A Collection (2000-2012)
The Be Good Tanyas released three albums across a decade – each one filled with great songs from 2000/2001’s Blue Horse, to 2003’s Chinatown and Hello Love (2006). The band went on hiatus, then returned, its members have had parallel solo careers and other bands – and early member Jolie Holland was, briefly, a breakout star, which helped attract attention to the Tanyas.
They’ve also managed, across a quality-over-quantity career, to be adept at covers - this career overview does not include their excellent cover of Prince’s When Doves Cry but does offer their version of Neil Young’s For The Turnstiles (from the same parent album, Hello Love) and the band’s version of Townes Van Zandt’s Waiting Around To Die.
The Be Good Tanyas had plenty of great original tunes too – almost immediately in fact (The Littlest Birds, Only In The Past). Blue Horse was an assured debut, the feel might have seemed more professional, more lived in, across Chinatown and Hello Love but the songs were there from the start. Rustic and lovely. And the gorgeous harmonies too.
The Be Good Tanyas also – wisely – had songs placed on cult TV shows (Weeds, The L Word, Breaking Bad) and when you think, again, of the quality of their work it could seem odd to consider their place; should they not be better known? Well, no. The reality is many people know very little about music – picking up on things only as a fad. So that burst of almost-mainstream interest in the Tanyas – on the back of a burst of almost-mainstream interest in Jolie Holland’s career of diminishing returns – was all on the back of the discovery of Norah Jones and a handful of country-ish tunes. It was a time when people were still taking direction from what the music store had listed under “recommended” – if you like this try THIS! – and it worked. But only ever fleetingly. People bought Chinatown, went back to Blue Horse and maybe stayed on for Hello Love but they were also busy buying whatever else was being thrown at them, the Joanna Newsoms and Jenny Queens of the day.
There are a few names – like Gillian Welch – that have a permanent kudos stamp but I always thought The Be Good Tanyas were undervalued. And listening to this Collection reminded me of all the good music. There are four new songs here – included as part of a 16-track album. The new songs are good enough to sit with their cousins.
It was nice to fall back in love with The Be Good Tanyas; a good compilation should do that – reintroduce you, remind you as well as being the perfect starting point for any new fans. These songs are dressed and ready for town, as bluegrass goes (slightly) pop but retains a folk earthiness. These songs are brilliantly played, the singing is divine. These songs are good. These Tanyas be good.