A week ago I lamented the fact that this summer's music hasn't really blown me away. One week later, this is one of the best things I've heard all year. (On account of both things. Yes, yet again, due to brevity, it’s another twofer.)
Here's the sequence of events that took place in my head:
Oh, Rayland Baxter has a new album. Hmmm. Didn't he just put one out last year? Interesting. [Pressed play on Good Mmornin.] He's really mixing things up compared to Wide Awake. I like it. The first-person storytelling remains, so does the piano, but he's traded in the peppier, happier vibes for jazzy, contemplative musings. And why does this song sound familiar? Hmmm, I see he's sticking with this theme on the second track. Sounds familiar too. OK, I definitely know this song...holy shit...is this...Mac Miller? Wait, Rayland Baxter is covering Mac Miller?!?! Wait, Rayland Baxter just put out a 30-minute album of Mac Miller covers?!?!?!
Yes he did. And beautifully so. It might not be as unexpected as The Offspring covering "Barbie Girl" or William Shatner doing very William Shatner things to "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," but Rayland Baxter doing a full EP of tracks from the late Mac Miller is about as left field a release I've heard in a long time. Baxter never met the man born Malcolm James McCormick, who died nearly a year ago from an accidental overdose, but became enthralled after seeing the MC’s set at the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, at which the singer-songwriter was also performing.
Good Mmornin is an impressive tribute to the late rapper. Baxter stays true to Miller’s originals, doing proper justice, while bending them just enough to sound right at home in his own catalog. The slightly more melodic fluctuating inflection via Baxter's singing compared to the drawl of Miller's flow raises the vulnerability on already fragile songs. It also at times gives the tunes an almost sing-along feel. Good Mmornin is something you could play to someone who says they don’t like hip hop and pass it off as just a guy from Nashville reflecting on life in verse.
And as I said, we're in for a twofer (don't want to shortchange anyone musically). Summer Salt's EP follow-up to Happy Camper is pretty much an extension of that record. Which is to say, the musical equivalent of a glass of lemonade on a 95 degree day.
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