Guitarist/vocalist Marcus Singletary, a veteran of the Chicago blues scene who has been performing and recording jamband music since founding the Chicago-area group Jupiter’s Child in the 1990s, is back with a slightly different project. Singletary recently released a digital EP of popular and traditional American songs called “Marcus Singletary Sings Country Music Standards.”
The seven tracks, all of which feature Singletary and an acoustic guitar in a minimalist arrangement that recalls the works of pre-rock pioneers such as Robert Johnson, span genres from country to blues to soft rock to straight-ahead rock n roll. The first song, a cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic “Proud Mary,” features fast-paced acoustic strumming and Singletary’s soulful vocals recall the much-loved Ike and Tina cover as much as the original.
Singletary’s take on the Hank Williams number “You Win Again” has more of a traditional country-blues feel with rock overtones, and is reminiscent of how The Rolling Stones used to incorporate country in the late 1960s and 1970s. Singletary is a deft guitarist and also has a strong voice, his clear vocals bring to life just how violent and menacing many roots and roots-influenced songs (such as Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Jim Croce’s “You Dpn’t Mess Around with Jim”) really are.
The last two songs, covers of the Elvis Presley-associated “Just Pretend” and Charley Pride’s “Kiss an Angel Good Morning,” trade violence for heartbreak, and make emotional pain sound more damaging than physical pain. Fans of traditional and acoustic music may be interested in checking out these new interpretations, still performed organically and from the soul, as they were intended.