In 1958, the Everly Brothers interrupted a two-year run of hit singles, including “Bye-Bye Love” and “Wake Up Little Susie,” to record a homage to their Tennessee roots, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us – a dozen folk tunes and vintage country laments done with just acoustic guitars and the siblings’ precise, keening harmonies.
Two years ago, Green Day singer-guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong “stumbled upon” that album, as he puts it. “I thought, ‘Man, what made them want to make this record?'” he says. “It seemed so cryptic that these guys would be doing songs about death, being in jail and lost love.
“I liked the whole concept,” Armstrong goes on, “that this was something taught to them, and now it’s being taught to me. I thought it would be cool to pass the tradition one more time.”
But he’s done it with a difference. On Foreverly (out November 25th), Armstrong covers all 12 songs – with Norah Jones as his harmony partner. Backed by a skeletal rhythm section and discreet flourishes of fiddle and steel guitar, Armstrong and Jones emulate the Everlys’ tight vocal formation while making more explicit the emotional and sexual tensions in “Oh So Many Years” and the traditional ballad “Barbara Allen.”
“That was the key to us – not to just copy the record,” says Jones, who recorded Foreverly with Armstrong in New York over nine days this spring and summer. “Songs like ‘Down in the Willow Garden’ and ‘Put My Little Shoes Away’ – they’re such dark lyrics. We thought we’d play that up.”
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Re-creating the Everlys’ album was Armstrong’s brainstorm; getting Jones was his wife Adrienne’s idea. Jones took younger Everly Phil’s parts, typically singing the high harmonies; Armstrong played Don. Foreverly came together so quickly that Armstrong and Jones have no plans for live shows together – yet. The former is “chillin’ for the rest of this year,” then going to Australia with Green Day in February. “It would be fun to do a couple of things together,” Armstrong admits. “Right now, we’re taking everything in stride.”
This story is from the November 21st, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.