Many songs started as nascent ideas captured on a cassette unearthed by Pierce’s latter day collaborator Cypress Grove while clearing out his loft. Harking back to the collective ethos of Pierce’s beloved jazz, artists spill into each other’s tracks, reinterpreting or finishing lyrical and melodic sketches while some chose personal favorites from his catalogue.
This time, the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project includes Nick Cave (who also takes part in a return duet with Debbie Harry on ‘The Breaking Hands’), Mick Harvey, Debbie Harry & Chris Stein, Lydia Lunch, The Jim Jones Revue, Kid Congo Powers, Tav Falco’s Panther Burns, Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell, Youth’s Vertical Smile, Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), Warren Ellis, Barry Adamson, Bertrand Cantat & Pascal Humbert, Thalia Zedek & Chris Brokaw, Hugo Race, Dom Beken and Kris & Michelle Needs, sometimes in different combinations.
“The idea was that, these are not our songs, we merely interpret them,” explains Cypress Grove. “This is not a tribute project, which usually consists of third rate re-treads of an artist’s most famous work, but brand new material from beyond the grave. In some cases the artists have had to finish the songs, so there can be no nonsense about this not being as good as the original version as these are the original versions! It’s a musical collective of artists who have come together to interpret or complete skeletal, unfinished material by Jeffrey. Where possible we have used Jeffrey’s contributions, so he actually appears posthumously on this album.
“Also, many of the artists appear on each others tracks, like a true collective, so it is not merely a series of individual tracks. For Example, Warren Ellis appears on the Nick Cave tracks, but also plays with Lydia and Bertrand Cantat. Lydia Lunch sings with Tex Perkins and Barry Adamson, as well as doing her own track. Barry plays bass on Lydia’s track and Nick Cave’s ‘The Breaking Hands’, and so on. I like to think of it as being like Josh Homme’s The Dessert Sessions.”
Pierce and his ever-changing Gun Club lineups poured America’s roots music forms into a blender of hard drugs and liquor, wrenching the udders of America's bloated cow to spew out toxic, low-life hollers and swamped-up songs of love and desperation.
He seemed to have located the dark main artery of the blues, loaded up an overblown hypo and set the plunger to permanent stun as first the group released seminal eighties classic albums including Fire Of Love, Miami and The Las Vegas Story, then later solo works such as Wildweed and Ramblin’ Jeffrey Lee & Cypress Grove. Jeffrey was infamous for his hard-drinking, drugging and hell-raising, dying from a brain haemorrhage in March, 1996. Since then, his influence has been increasingly acknowledged on musical forms like blues-punk and Americana. Those who knew him all have a tale to tell, seeing the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Project as one way of marking their affection and memories.
The album is released on 9th April on German label Glitterhouse on both CD and double vinyl, with 20 page booklet featuring memorabilia and extensive liner notes by Kris Needs. Proceeds from the first volume went to Amnesty International, but Pierce’s sister Jacqui is setting up The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Foundation to help fulfil her brother’s long-standing desire to provide musical instruments for under-privileged kids in LA.
A third and final volume called The Task Has Overwhelmed Us is already in production for release later in the year.
1. City In Pain – Nick Cave
2. I’m Going Upstairs – Hugo Race
3. From Death To Texas – Steve Wynn
4. The Breaking Hands – Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell
5. The Jungle Book – The Amber Lights
6. Rose’s Blues – Bertrand Cantat, Pascal Humbert, Warren Ellis, Cypress Grove
7. Zonar Roze – Thalia Zedek & Chris Brokaw
8. L.A. County Jail Blues – Cypress Grove
9. I Wanna Be You – Barry Adamson
10. Sonny Boy – Mick Harvey
11. Book of Love – Vertical Smile
12. Body and Soul – Astro-Unicorn
13. The Brink – Lydia Lunch
14. The Breaking Hands – Nick Cave & Deborah Harry
15. In My Room – Tex Perkins & Lydia Lunch
16. The Jungle Book – Tav Falco’s Panther Burns
17. St Marks Place – Mick Harvey
18. Ain’t My Problem Baby – The Jim Jones Revue