Essentially, Underwater Sunshine is Counting Crows’ lead singer Adam Duritz’s love letter to the music world. Paying homage to the fifteen bands he lovingly plucked from within his musical covey, the new covers album consists of songs ranging from Dawes, the gem of music streaming site Daytrotter.com, to Bob Dylan. The result is a personal glimpse into the seasoned band’s musical identity.
There is a notable Bay Area influence to the album, featuring songs from Crows members’ past collaborations, including Sordid Humor and Tender Mercies, both staples of the San Francisco music scene in the late ’80s and ’90s. You can sense the camaraderie of it in the playfulness of Duritz’s howling tenor. Underwater Sunshine is no disappearing act — no Paul Simon, no Neil Young. It’s Counting Crows through and through — and ultimately that’s fine.
The albums starts off folksy, taking simple acoustic ringers and fitting them for the seven-piece band, fleshing ditties out into bits of amped-up, rag-tag bluesy sounds. And with the exception of “Like Teenage Gravity” — better in its original form — the method works.
The album’s oddball, “Hospital,” is a mildly experimental cover, about as shocking as it gets for a band known for sticking with what works, and while it is jarring at first, it comes as a welcome surprise. “Ooh La La,” originally by Faces, is the album’s standout. Clean and catchy, it is a romping rendition which does due justice to the original, and it fits the band to a tee.
Underwater Sunshine is ultimately Duritz’s album. He revels in the carefully selected songs, pieces of his past happiness condensed, inviting us to experience it with him all over again. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s good solid Counting Crows chicken soup warmth.