TRACK REVIEW: Jeffertitti’s Nile “Blue Spirit Blues”

Jeffertitti’s Nile is the kind of band that likes to make its own reality. The project of Jeffertitti Moon, bassist for Father John Misty, Jeffertitti’s Nile developed in the space between tours, expanding with various new members and cameos as well as scattered musical styles and odd combinations. The group prides itself on its unpredictability, and seem to deliberately sidestep expectations with each new release of self-described “Transcendental Space-Punk Doo Wop.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that the first single off the Jeffertitti’s second album The Electric Hour, set to drop at the end of April, is a little out of left field: on “Blue Spirit Blues,” Jeffertitti conducts a large-scale, ultrazany reimagining of jazz legend Bessie Smith’s 1929 version. Jeffertitti’s cover is a full gutting of the track: underlaid with a bass pull as powerful as a riptide, “Blue Spirit Blues” moves at a breakneck pace through its three and a half minutes, rollicking and snarling the whole way.

Bessie Smith and Jeffertitti aren’t nearly as odd a combination as they seem on first glance, and in fact, the more you listen to the song, the easier it is to realize that the full-body trip of Jeffertitti’s “Blue Spirit Blues” isn’t a new addition; the song always had a glint of craziness beneath the surface. The lyrics have always been scary: it’s the story of dreaming of descending into hell, running until someone wakes you up. Just as the deep dread and foreboding at the heart of Jeffertitti’s version is traceable to Smith, the original version of the song has always had something otherworldly and–in an early 20th century jazz sort of way–psychedelic about it. Jeffertitti’s rendition blasts open the song’s expansiveness and amps up the dark, sexy rhythm behind the melody.

It’s hard to know what to expect from an album whose first single is a cover, but if the imaginative power behind this track is any indication, The Electric Hour will be worth looking out for. The new album drops on April 29th via Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records. Until then, listen to “Blue Spirit Blues” below:

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