Unlikely covers are the best. It’s in these moments when you get a glimpse of an artist’s creativity unavailable in their own original material – the cover supplies the colors and template from which the artist draws from and we are privileged to hear how they re-invent otherwise stalwart tunes. Penned by Tom Petty as a duet for himself and legendary Fleetwood Mac singer/songwriter Stevie Nicks, Black 9 recasts the venerable hit as a dramatic hard rock number with songwriting partners Aven and Blakk mixing their voices with memorable effects. It marks a notable detour for an act that’s already established themselves as a songwriting force and the cover figures to be one of the key numbers included on their full length album Cruel History.
Guitarist Tiffany Marsten makes important contributions as well. While the band’s press materials ballyhoo her Malmsteen-like solos, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” isn’t any such animal. There is a smattering of shred worked into her guitar work here but, largely, Marsten’s playing serves the song rather than serving as an opportunity to demonstrate her virtuosic playing chops. There’s no question, however, that she brings a lot to the song – her fleet fingered fret work gives an already dramatic tune added flair without ever seeming ostentatious. It’s a model for how modern metal guitarists can allow their skills to shine through while never subverting the songwriting with too much flash.
It isn’t as much of a pure duet as the original, but the vocal interplay present in this cover obeys the same male/female vocal dynamic we heard from the Petty/Nicks version. Despite the strong hard rock/metal pedigree constituting the song’s DNA, the female vocal works a lot of soul into a musical form never renowned for such a quality./ It’s a song that practically demands some measure of emotion from both vocalists, even if the arrangement is in a very different context. This juxtaposition is important to the song’s success.
The arrangement definitely upends your expectations if you’re familiar with the original, but it naturally has to do so – literally transposing the roots rock feeling over to metal is well nigh impossible. The Petty/Nicks take on the tune, regardless, has enough iconic status that anyone daring to cover necessarily needs to reinvent it. They reshape the song with inspired energy while still echoing Petty’s initial vision for the track. Black 9 needed considerable chutzpah to tackle this tune in such a way – but every second of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” rings out with confidence.
The song, in some ways, is an anomaly on a release focused more on original, but likely proves to be a key factor in attracting attention for the band. This sort of daring isn’t as common in guitar-based music as it once was – new bands are more content to play it safe, satisfyingly predictable, but this cover makes it clear that Black 9 is comfortable with surprising the listener and talented enough to make those surprising turns work. “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” has enough merit to make listeners delve deeper into this band’s music and will keep you coming back for more.
-The music of BLACK9 has been heard all over the world due to the radio plugging services offered by Musik Radio Promotions.
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