Song Premiere: Birds of Chicago Cover Mark Heard on New Tribute Compilation
Singer/songwriter Mark Heard was only 40 years old when he died from a heart attack in 1992. Now 25 years after his passing, a variety have artists have come together to honor his memory on Treasure of the Broken Land: The Songs of Mark Heard. Jeff Grantham initiated the project and enlisted Phil Madeira to produce the record, which draws together Rodney Crowell, Buddy Miller, North Mississippi Allstars, Over the Rhine, Drew Holcomb, Sierra Hull and others. Today we premiere Birds of Chicago’s version of Rise From The Ruins from the album, which is set for release on June 2 and is now available for pre-order. The track listing appears below the stream.
Birds of Chicago’s Allison Russell tells Relix: “I never had the chance to meet Mark during his too brief life but we are all fortunate that he lives on in his immortal songs. When Mark Heard died in 1992 – I was a twelve year old kid growing up in Montreal who didn’t yet dream of becoming a musician…My first introduction to Mark Heard’s writing was actually through Olivia Newton-John’s cover of his tune “Big and Strong”(originally “How to Grow Up Big and Strong”) – and he kept appearing in my musical world via other songwriters and musicians I respected covering his tunes- people like Buddy and Julie Miller, and Pierce Pettis.
“So when Jeff Grantham invited us to be part of this tribute to Mark – we felt deeply honored. We started delving into his recorded works to find just the right Mark Heard song for us – one that we felt we could do justice to and also make our own. ‘Rise From The Ruins’ jumped out at all of us – it felt so timeless and yet particularly timely- it felt like a song we could really inhabit. The treatment Mark and his band gave it on Dry Bones Dance is like a Cajun late night party dance number during the 80’s and is wonderful and reflective of the era it was recorded in. But the more we listened to the song, the more we started to hear it as a gospel soul tune. The depth of the lyrics- wrestling with eternal questions: why are we here, what good can we make of our lives, how are we treating each other and our planet, is our “progress” also our ruin, what is redemption?
“There is hope and urgency there too – “Nobody asks to be born, nobody wishes to die…we can walk we can talk/ We ain’t yet pillars of salt/ And we will rise from the ruins while we can”… the inference of the Biblical reference to poor Lot’s wife ( turned to a pillar of salt for looking back at her condemned city) to my mind is – stay in the moment – don’t let the past cripple you – imagine a better future, create it… We slowed the tune down and dug into the lyrics and melody and played and sang it with as much soul as we could.
“We met Phil Madeira the day that we walked into the studio in Nashville ( we had a few hours between tour stops) to record the song – he heard what we were doing with the song and felt it- and since he’d been so close with Mark – it was almost like we had Mark’s blessing. Phil sat in with our band on organ and we cut the track live in three takes- the Neil Young method! It felt like we’d done it before you know? That’s the power of a timeless tune and musicians putting the song first and everyone really listening to each other.
“My husband JT Nero and our drummer Nick Chambers overdubbed their harmonies- and one of my favorite moments was watching them sing beautiful boy back-ups together on the same mic – it was fun to flip the script. It was a joyful experience and one I won’t forget.”
Treasure of the Broken Land: The Songs of Mark Heard Track Listing