Jim James, Andrew Bird, Grace Potter, Lucius, the Decemberists, Warren Haynes, Punch Brothers’ Chris Thile, Julien Baker and Benmont Tench all collaborated on a remote cover version of Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love” as part of the Newport Folk Festival’s virtual festival.
The performance, music-directed by the Decemberists’ Chris Funk, features home-recorded performances sewn into a massive web of sound. The collaborators also include Hiss Golden Messenger, Yola, Glen Hansard, Valerie June, Ruby Amanfu, Phil Cook, Sara Watkins and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, among others.
James fronts a sizable chunk of the track, with other guests taking occasional leads and fleshing out the arrangement with layered harmonies. Bird’s violin and whistling appears at various points, and Thile takes a tasteful mandolin solo midway through.
The three-day Newport Folk event, which launched with an 80th birthday celebration for Mavis Staples, also featured spots from James Taylor, Tom Morello, Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, M. Ward, Trombone Shorty, Deer Tick, Leon Bridges, Sharon Van Etten and Robert Ellis. Virtual attendees were encouraged to donate to the Newport Festivals Foundation, which has been supporting musicians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “In these uncertain times, your generosity will make all the difference,” reads a statement on the foundation website.
Along with sharing the all-star finale, the festival released two other memorable stand-alone performances on Monday: Courtney Barnett and Phoebe Bridgers teaming to cover Gillian Welch’s “Everything Is Free” and Roger Waters joining Lucius to tackle John Prine’s “Hello in There.”