Bill Withers has released a cover of the Little Jimmy Dickens song "(You've Been Quite a Doll) Raggedy Ann" as part of a tribute to the late country singer and fellow West Virginian. The song marks Withers' first solo recording since 1985's Watching You Watching Me. Check out the cover above, via Spotify.
Melancholic and personal, the song is a conversational address that outlines a set of tragic familial circumstances. Withers, who wistfully reflects on the death of his daughter and the emotional intimacy she shared with her cherished Raggedy Ann doll, speaks over a delicate arrangement of ambient strings and flimsy percussion. The singer proclaims, "Why, Raggedy Ann, sometimes I'd almost swear that you're just about as much alive as I am / When I hug you up close to me, I feel every ounce of the warm glow of love that she must've felt... I bet that smile has dryed more tears and cured more little hurts then I could ever hope to kiss away / And I'll tell you something else, that big smile has given me strength to face some pretty trying times myself."
While Withers' instrumental accompaniment differs from the melodic hum of the original version, Dickens' talkative vocal style is preserved and reanimated.
You can pick up a copy of the album, titled The Rhinestone Hillbilly, on the Little Jimmy Dickens Tribute Bandcamp page. For more, check out Bill Withers' Zumic artist page.