The National Conscript Courtney Barnett For Massive Grateful Dead Tribute

19 February 2016 | 12:21 pm | Staff Writer

The album has been more than four years in the making

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Grammy-nominated troubadour Courtney Barnett is one of more than 60 artists lending their talents to a more-than-six-hour-long collection of Grateful Dead covers being curated by The National.

The album — which clocks in at 59 tracks, as The National's Aaron Dessner recently told The Music's Anthony Carew (but "...we could've done a hundred") — has been in the making since 2011, when it was first announced. In the ensuing years, its roster of contributors has continued to grow, with early confirmations coming from the likes of The War On Drugs, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Daniel Rossen (Grizzly Bear), Phosphorescent and more.

Barnett's inclusion is one of the more recent revelations alongside the likes of Wilco (with Bob Weir), Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Kurt Vile with J Mascis, Flaming Lips and more, with Rolling Stone US writer Will Hermes seemingly confirming her involvement in a series of now-deleted tweets (see more via Jambase), but we'll go you one better than that — the word of Dessner himself, who told The Music the album will likely stretch to "like 11 vinyl or something", and "features pretty much all of our friends, and people we look up to".

"There’s the guys from Grizzly Bear, and Justin Vernon, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Courtney Barnett, Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth, Stephen Malkmus, War On Drugs, Phosphorescent... it goes on and on," he told The Music. "There’s literally over 60 artists. It’s kinda crazy. It started out as fun, but then it became this giant thing. Hopefully it becomes a cultural document of the way which, these legendary old bands, their music seeps into culture over the years. There’s all these radically different interpretations, which I find interesting."

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According to Hermes' withdrawn tweets, Barnett will cover New Speedway Boogie for the tribute, which is due to make its live debut at the 2016 Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival, as Stereogum notes. Wilco and Weir are down for St Stephen, Malkmus & The Jicks handle China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider, Vile and Mascis reimagine Box Of Rain, Flaming Lips are doing Dark Star — as Dessner said, it goes on and on.

No official release details for the tribute LP are available as yet — but Dessner's been keeping plenty busy writing another National album lately (as well as finishing the compilation), so it's easy to forgive him.

"I've been writing a lot of National songs this year," he told The Music. "We're deep into writing. I've done a lot of work on my own, and [vocalist] Matt [Berninger]'s definitely off in his corner writing lyrics.

"At this stage, we're still writing. We have a pool of about 20 songs, but we're writing as we're recording. It's hard to say exactly how what we have will translate to the finished album. I'd say we're about six months to a year away from being done with it."

In the interim until we get either that album or the Grateful Dead covers compilation, spend some time feasting your eyes on the full confirmed list of contributors and their respective tracks (via The Future Heart):

Grizzly Bear & The National — Terrapin Station Suite
The Flaming Lips — Dark Star
Tallest Man On Earth & Friends — Ship Of Fools
Jim James & Friends — Candyman
Courtney Barnett — New Speedway Boogie
Justin Vernon & Bruce Hornsby — Black Muddy River
The War On Drugs — Touch Of Grey
Unknown Mortal Orchestra — Shakedown Street
Kurt Vile & J Mascis — Box Of Rain
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks — China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider
Phosphorescent — Standing On The Moon
Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo) & Friends — Wharf Rat
Perfume Genius w/ Sharon Van Etten & Friends — To Lay Me Down
Marijuana Death Squad — Truckin'
Tunde Adebimpe w/ Lee Ranaldo & Friends — Playing In The Band
The Walkmen — Ripple
Vijay Iyer — King Solomon's Marbles
Tal Natinoal — Eyes Of The World
Angel Olsen — Attics Of My Life
Fucked Up — Cream Puff War
Orchestra Baobab — Franklin's Tower
Antony — Black Peter
Lucius — Uncle John's Band
The National — Morning Dew
The National — Peggy-O
Wilco w/ Bob Weir — St Stephen

Also featuring: Sam Cohen, Josh Kaufman, Conrad Doucette, Joe Russo, Real Estate, Bela Fleck, Terry Riley, Charles Bradley, Cass McCombs, Will Oldham, yMusic, Sam Amidon, The Wood Brothers and others.