Here is one of the most unexpected musical pairings one could have imagined: Punk rocker and Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong has teamed up with singer-songwriter Norah Jones to record an album of traditional American folk songs. Their first offering from the collection is the subtle and sweet "Long Time Gone," a classic that bids farewell to an unfaithful partner. It was written by Frank Hartford and Tex Ritter. This recording showcases beautiful harmonies between Armstrong and Jones over tinkling piano and a lightly strummed guitar and bass.
"Long Time Gone" comes from the duo's new album, Foreverly. The collection is inspired by the Everly Brothers' 1958 record, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, and features the same 12 traditional folk songs.
In an interview with Stereogum, Armstrong and Jones revealed how their surprising collaboration started. As Armstrong describes:
It all started with Stevie Wonder. [laughter] We sang together with Stevie Wonder and his band and a whole bunch of people, that’s how Norah and I first met. Then … well, I got into the Everly Brothers’ record a couple years ago and I thought it was just beautiful. I was listening to it every morning for a while off and on. I thought it would be cool to remake the record because I thought it was sort of an obscure thing and more people should know about it, but I really wanted to do it with a woman singing because I thought it would take on a different meaning — maybe broaden the meaning a little bit — as compared to hearing the songs being sung by the two brothers. And so my wife said, “Why don’t you get Norah Jones to do it?” and I was like, “Well, I kinda know her.” Well, I mean, we had Stevie Wonder in common. And so I called her and she said yes. So it was kinda like a … well, I keep saying it was kinda like a blind date.
The two musicians started off tentatively at first, but ended up recording the whole album in just 9 days. Jones enjoyed the recording process, stating, "We got to experiment a lot but we didn’t linger on anything, we didn’t over-think anything, which was just really nice. I like working with people like him because he’s fast, smart, and he’s focused, and he’s present. There’s no bullshit. It was fun and it was easy." Armstrong adds, "The thing too is just getting into the purity of the recording. The reason why it was fast was because we were just really kind of getting to the heart of making it really simple. It is rootsy sounding, for lack of a better word. I don’t know, it sounds really pure to me. And honest."
Foreverly features 12 songs, and will be released on November 25th via Warner Brothers Records. You can pre-order the album on iTunes and the Warner Music store now. Pre-orders come with an instant download of "Long Time Gone."
You can also check out the Everly Brothers' version of "Long Time Gone," recorded in 1958, below: