Kendell Marvel Finds a Rambling Sound in Cover of Lee Hazlewood’s “Houston”
Stacie Hestand – Raised Rowdy Contributor
Sometimes, there’s nothing like a good cover of a classic. After covering the Bee Gees’ “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You” on his 2019 album Solid Gold Sounds (more on that album here), Kendell Marvel is back with his own version of Lee Hazlewood’s “Houston”. The song, which was perhaps most famously covered by Dean Martin in the 1960s, tells the story of a wanderer who’s run into a string of bad luck.
Marvel’s version of “Houston” offers an embellished sonic profile while still maintaining the character of the original. His interest in the track was sparked by Dave Ferguson, who was one of the producers on Solid Gold Sounds. “Dave ‘Ferg’ Ferguson sent this song to me the night before we started tracking Solid Gold Sounds and said, ‘We should cut this!’. I listened a few times and was intrigued by his phrasing of the song so I listened to some more Lee Hazlewood stuff and instantly became a fan of his writing. Hazlewood was a melting pot of styles and gave zero shits about anything. He was a psychedelic outlaw way ahead of his time.”
There’s a sweeping, vintage quality to anything that comes out of Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound. Many of Easy Eye’s projects have an air of opulence – the product of powerhouse vocals that can move from soft to booming with ease, gorgeously layered instrumentation, and top-level production. In that respect, Marvel’s cover of “Houston” is no exception. Much like Hazlewood’s version, Marvel’s “Houston” stretches its legs with a 60’s-style rambling sound that rolls on like wheels on an interstate, complete with gospel-style backing vocals. However, the cover’s addition of steel guitar and fiddle go on to form a lush backdrop, priming the track for the liquid gold of Marvel’s voice.
Marvel also released a video to accompany his version of “Houston”. Directed by Ryan Nadzam, the video shows Marvel in a setting that’s slightly different from where we’re used to seeing him; he’s traded the stage, mic, and guitar for a stove, spatula, and French press. As for the audience, well… you’ll have to wait until the very end to see who makes a guest appearance (but we think she’s definitely an acceptable substitute).