Ari Hest

So finally getting started on my year-end post(s) got me thinking about the top-10 albums list I did last year.

Looking back, I feel pretty good about everything I put on there, but my appreciation for one of those albums has changed dramatically since the end of 2011. It’s not that I’d drop Bon Iver’s self-titled effort, if given a do-over, it’s just that its legacy has shifted. I say that because, when I see the cover of Bon Iver now, I immediately start thinking about Bonnie Raitt, John Prine and Peter Gabriel.

It’s not as random as it sounds, I swear.

In the months following the album’s release, Bon Iver released 12-inch vinyl singles for 4 tracks, and on the B-side of each record (except for the “Beth/Rest” one) was a cover song. I dutifully bought each record (except for the “Beth/Rest” one), and those cover tunes took me down unfamiliar avenues that I’m still exploring to this day. Inspired by Vernon’s take on John Prine’s “Bruised Orange (Chain Of Sorrow),” I recently went on a Prine buying spree, picking up cheap, used copies of three of his albums. Prine’s 1973 release, Sweet Revenge, has been in heavy rotation at YHT Headquarters ever since, and I owe those hours of enjoyment to Mr. Vernon.

The same goes for my enjoyment of Bonnie Raitt. Vernon’s rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” was a wonderful wake-up call, and an ironic one at that, given that the song did in fact make me love her. Though, you could argue that this is not ironic (or twice as ironic), since it wasn’t her original version that originally got through to me. Then again, she didn’t actually write the song — Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin did — so it’s either extremely ironic or not ironic at all, in the most ironic way possible. Either way, a vinyl copy of her debut album is at the very top of my Buy-On-Sight list, thanks (again) to Mr. Vernon.

I recently came across another version of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” that I couldn’t resist sharing, by a brilliant singer-songwriter by the name of Ari Hest. I saw Hest a few times while I was in college and can remember being floored by the astonishing tonal preciseness with which he sang. (Also by the fact that he’d make tiny adjustments to his guitar’s tuning in the middle of playing and singing. My description isn’t doing it justice, but it’s crazy. Go see for yourself.) His gently creative take on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is still hard to beat in my book, and in the video at the top of this post, he takes on “I Can’t Make You Love Me” with the same graceful touch and a 12-string guitar.

Check it out above and hear Vernon’s version below. Maybe they’ll spark your own Raitt renaissance. And if you dig Hest’s voice as much as I do, click here to snag his most recent album, The Fire Plays. 

Bon Iver — “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (Bonnie Raitt cover) [Spotify/iTunes]

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