Coming together as Indiscriminate Lovers, the Steel Wheels’ Trent Wagler and music teacher Derek Kratzer take listeners inside Leonard Cohen’s storied songbook via unexpected and entirely successful arrangements.
The duo make their debut with Amen: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, a 22-minute, seven-song EP that spans 1969’s “Tonight Will be Fine” to 2016’s “On the Level,” a number that, unbelievably, works as a banjo tune.
Amen is a moody capsulation of Cohen’s career as Wagler (guitar, banjo, percussion) and Kratzer (guitar, bass) render his works in foggy reimaginations. Wagler sings these songs and Kratzer occasionally follows with slightly off-the-pace harmonies that give the collection a loose, but never sloppy, feel.
“Darkness,” delivered via bass and electric guitar, flirts with stripped-down jazz. Meanwhile, the set-closing title track bounces along on electric guitar and jaunty vocals.
The cover depicts a famous Cohen song about an avian creature perched on a power line, although “Bird on a Wire,” like “Hallelujah,” is wisely not included in favor of lesser-known material.
Maybe Indiscriminate Lovers will tackle Cohen’s more recognized tracks next time. And an auspicious debut such as this fairly demands a next time – and a full-length album.