Come Hell or…Well, you Know: On High Water’s “Changed the Locks”

High Water's forthcoming Crush is another highly anticipated record from Nico Jaar's Other People label.
By    June 3, 2016

high water

Will Schube’s favorite duck call comes from Gordon Bombay.

Mid-era Lucinda Williams doesn’t seem like an obvious reference point for a young New York-based saxophone player. But maybe Will Epstein doesn’t think in the same binaries we do. Perhaps there’s a line that connects shiny 80s country pop to morose psych-dub. And that’s precisely the portrait Epstein sketches with his cover of Williams’ “Changed the Locks.”

Epstein—who records under the alias High Water—was one of the first recruits to Nico Jaar’s army of Other People, and is readying his full-length debut with the label, of which “Changed the Locks” is the awe-inducing first single.

While Lucinda attacks, Epstein laments. The original is braggadocios and swaggering, an affirmation of identity and self. The High Water version drowns in these admissions, as Epstein’s yelps eventually tak on a desperate tinge that wouldn’t sound out of place on an old record from The Band. His voice cuts through any self-consciousness. He’s that dude at the karaoke bar you wish you could be.

“Changed the Locks” deserves good headphones or speakers, as its beauty lies in nuances; the guitar a swaggering duck call and the bass buoying the drums with its simple melodic lead. The groove teeters and veers as the track floats through its various sections before entering one last rollocking chorus. And if the line from Lucinda to High Water wasn’t clear before, it sure is now.