There’s something about “tackling the classics” that manages to draw some of the most talented songwriters/musicians across a slew of genres to this somewhat Sisyphean task. Willie Nelson, Rod Stewart, Todd Snider, Jesse Dayton, The Smithereens, among many, many others have all, with varying degrees of success, devoted entire albums to covering other’s works, so Hynde is hardly alone in this latest endeavor.
In Hynde’s case, the result is mixed. Valce Bone Woe finds one of the greatest rock vocalists of a generation, with her bourbon-neat vocals, taking on mostly obscure, smoky-roomed jazz. Songs like the Hoagy Carmichael “I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)” and Nick Drake’s “River Man,” remain somber, but powerfully remarkable, thanks to Hynde’s vocals, while some of the other tracks here seem wasted by her powerfully distinctive vocals (not to mention her fantastic guitar playing, which is sadly not on display).
Yes, Hynde leaves a favorable imprint on these otherwise mostly forgotten jazz and folks songs, but for the average Hynde/Pretenders fan, this just seems like another phrase you hope your favorite musician gets through quickly before settling back in to write the next great rock record, regardless of how unfair that may be to the musician looking to cover new ground.