A heavyweight cast of country music stars take on the works of Elton John and Bernie Taupin on Restoration. And the resulting 13 tracks are a worthy ode to the legendary duo through the lens of the country genre.
From the smooth chart-topping harmonies of Little Big Town flowing through the words of Rocket Man to start the album, to Willie Nelson’s unique musical fingerprints being put all over Border Song at the end, this is an album that celebrates Elton John’s hits for their legacy and shows off their surprising versatility.
Note: At first glance, it felt like a huge miss not having Tiny Dancer on this album. But then I remembered Tim McGraw’s 2002 version of the 1972 classic.
My first listen of Restoration was an interesting exercise in wanting to sing along to all of these timeless hits, and wanting to shut up and listen to the updated takes on them. In the end, I came to some sort of compromise, singing along to choruses the second or third time through.
There’s a lot to enjoy and be impressed with in this collection of covers. Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves both show the vocal skills that are making them rising stars in country music on Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters and Roy Rogers respectively. Don Henley and Vince Gill coming together on Sacrifice has a hint of the Eagles in the background, which fits when you consider Gill’s involvement in the band’s recent live shows. And Brothers Osborne get funky on Take Me To The Pilot with their signature combination of deep vocals from T.J. and arresting guitar work by John.
And that’s just four of the 13 songs on the record.
It feels pertinent to point out Miley Cyrus’s work on The Bitch Is Back. While Miley has been a celebrated pop star over her career, there has been clear evidence of her country chops in limited releases. And while I could do without the cow mooing in the song, her edgy vocals, and the well-constructed instrumentation put Miley in country music where some people think she could flourish artistically.
Two of country music’s most celebrated male artists, Chris Stapleton and Dierks Bentley, both turn in excellent performances on their album tracks. Stapleton offers the slow, deep, and powerful vocals that we crave on I Want Love, making you feel like this could have been one of those critically acclaimed songs he’s written in Nashville over the last decade. And Bentley delivers a piano country jam on Sad Songs (Say So Much), making it sound like it would fit halfway through his live set in any country music loving city he stops in.
And after saying all of that about nine of the songs on this album, there are still vocal performances from Miranda Lambert, Lee Ann Womack, Rhonda Vincent & Dolly Parton, and Rosanne Cash & Emmylou Harris on My Father’s Gun, Honky Cat, Please, and This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore.
The combined success and talent of these six women is astounding, so it should be no surprise that they did great work with these songs. And, as should have been expected, these country music women took Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s pop classics, bent their gender, added their country twang, and delivered hits of their own.
Overall, Restoration: Reimagining The Songs Of Elton John And Bernie Taupin feels like an album that was made specifically for me and music fans like me. The classic, catchy pop songs that I could sing along to all day have been countrified, with the vocal and instrumental touches that make me love country songs.
From top to bottom there isn’t a song that I want to skip over. There’s not a song that I don’t want to sing along to for at least a line or two. And there’s not an artist included that didn’t prove that they were the right choice.
My only complaint might be that this could have been a 30 song effort when you consider the depth of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s career together.
Here’s hoping for another two or more albums to follow this one!
Restoration: Reimagining The Songs Of Elton John And Bernie Taupin, Tracklist
1. Rocket Man – Little Big Town
2. Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters – Maren Morris
3. Sacrifice – Don Henley, Vince Gill
4. Take Me To The Pilot – Brothers Osborne
5. My Father’s Gun – Miranda Lambert
6. I Want Love – Chris Stapleton
7. Honky Cat – Lee Ann Womack
8. Roy Rogers – Kacey Musgraves
9. Please – Rhonda Vincent, Dolly Parton
10. The Bitch Is Back – Miley Cyrus
11. Sad Songs (Say So Much) – Dierks Bentley
12. This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore – Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris
13. Border Song – Willie Nelson