Covers album often have a "stop-gap" vibe to them no matter how good the source material. In the case of Shearwater it seems that the bands inspirational leader Jonathan Meiburg has sought a twist on the old concept by producing a set of reinventions and collaborations with bands they've toured with over the past decade. Full marks then for the concept but what about the music? As ever Meiburg's voice throughout the album is a thing of wonder. Shearwater often have the label "operatic" attached to their music because of his shimmering tenor and an ability to gloriously hit the vocal heights with unique interpretative passion. The album is economical at around 30 minutes and does contain one original song namely the duet with the wonderful Sharon Van Etten "A Wake For The Minotaur." Unsurprisingly it is one of the strongest on this short album not least since it bear the hallmarks of classic Shearwater with a delicate Meiburg vocal over slow acoustics, and combined with Van Etten's dulcet tones it is a rare beauty. We also have Shearwater covering Coldplay which might seem an unlikely pairing but the version of one of their lesser known songs "Hurts like Heaven" is very well done. Despite appearances to the contrary Meiburg has never worried about tackling hard rock and the song most heavily promoted from "Fellow Travellers" has been the cover of Xiu Xiu's "I love the Valley Girl OH!!". That bands frontman frontman Jamie Stewart and Meiburg have teamed up to form a new band called Blue Water White Death and while "Valley Girl" is not an outright triumph it grows considerably on repeated listens.
There are a couple of misfires. The jangling straightforward cover of St Vincent's "Cheerleader" doesn't really add to the original while the Clinic cover "Tomorrow" is fine but this reviewer is not sure that it such a great song in the first place. All these minor point however disappear on immaculate covers such as the gorgeous version of David Thomas Broughtons sumptuous "Ambiguity", the plaintive Wye Oak cover "Mary is Mary" and a great highlight Meiburg's version of Baptist Generals' "F@@ked Up Life." It could be argued that as a covers album this is not an essential addition to the Shearwater oeuvre, yet if you have a passing acquaintance with this great band you would be doing them a disservice to miss this one. It certainly is not heir greatest album but there is enough on "Fellow Travellers" to keep you fully interested for Meiburg's next musical outpouring and a number of songs present which will be seen as Shearwater essentials with the passage of time.
on 22 March 2015
Shearwater have released several superb albums of beautifully-composed songs, and the decision to record an album of covers both intrigued and disappointed me. The 'Fellow Travelers' concept is interesting and original at least. I don't know the original versions of any of the songs on the CD, so approached them as new material. And, well, the album just isn't terribly interesting. It sounds like what it is - a great band performing a few undistinguished songs by their friends and touring mates. Some are better than others but overall it just passes the time in a pleasant enough manner without engaging the emotions the way Shearwater's own material does. Not terrible at all, but also not the way to get to know this talented outfit. I await the next original album (due, I think, later this year) with as much anticipation as usual, and I can file this one away as an inoffensive and insubstantial stopgap and try to forget that they chose to cover a Coldplay song.
on 22 January 2015
This is a change, in their usual structure of songs. Apart from anything else, dedication to artists of their choice
For me I bought this on vinyl from sound it out in Stockton, in the sale section
As I have dissolving room.I tried this for my next shearwater album. It surpasses that by far, and I love that album!! I've played fellow travelers once,twice or more a week for two months, since my baby was born. So now its deep rooted
I next bought rooks after reading other reviews on here. Another great shearwater album. But for Me fellow travelers is their BEST...