Photo Credit: Shawn Brackbill
Bright Eyes, the perennial folk-rock project of singer/songwriter Conor Oberst, have just released their rendition of ‘Flirted With You All My Life’ by the late Vic Chesnutt – one of Oberst’s heroes and someone who approached their art with unflinching honesty.
After a serious car accident left him partially paralysed from the age of 18, Chesnutt threw himself into his creative pursuits. Throughout the 90’s and 00’s he developed a unique blend of solitary acoustic guitar, brittle vocals, roaring instrumentation and gut-wrenching candour in his lyricism. This style reached its pinnacle with his magnum opus At the Cut, which was released on September 21, 2009 and included ‘Flirted With You All My Life’ – a song which deals with Chesnutt’s lifelong battle with depression. 3 months later, on Christmas Day 2009, he tragically took his own life at the age of 45.
I would recommend this performance of ‘Everything I Say’ for anyone who wants to get a sense of Chesnutt’s work.
The Bright Eyes cover is a faithful tribute to the artist, with similar instrumentation and overall sound. The tone of this new version departs from the original as Oberst opts for a slightly louder and more emotional approach to the song, whereas Chesnutt had sung with a level of restraint and tenderness in his voice, as if channelling a warm nostalgia for an old friend.
The Bright Eyes trio’s version of the track is available to stream and download now. It is a moving homage to a great artist who was lost all too soon. The respect the band has for Chesnutt is summed up in Oberst’s words about the new release:
“I had the pleasure of seeing Vic perform many times over the years and from a young age. I can truly say he deeply changed my worldview and what it meant to write a really unique and thought-provoking song. One of the greatest ever. Always missed. Here is our humble version of one of his best.”