Jimmie Rodgers' classic song 'Mule Skinner Blues' — about a downtrodden man looking for work — has previously been covered by the likes of Bill Monroe and Dolly Parton.
Garrett quickens the tempo slightly and adds texture from his fiddle — recorded three different ways together. The song's underlying tension reaches a fever pitch thanks to his arrangement.
"Mule Skinner Blues is an old school Jimmie Rodgers song that I first heard Bill Monroe perform", Garrett said. "Tony Rice also recorded a version of it that I really love. I wanted to see if I could come up with a clever 'fiddle only' arrangement, so on this track I loop three fiddle rhythm parts, jam some solos and sing".
The cover appears on Garrett's forthcoming solo album Wanderer's Compass, which features new compositions and covers from a wide-ranging group of influences. Besides Rodgers, Garrett covers Coldplay and even an Israeli pop songwriter.
Like the title suggests, Wanderer's Compass is about enjoying different flavors of music. "I think it’s completely respectable to follow one path in music and be really good at that one thing — but like a kid eyeing a candy store, I am one who’s been drawn to the periphery of that path along the way", Garrett said.
"I grew up listening to so many styles of music, and even though bluegrass was my main focus early on, I can’t help but embrace other styles of music that have also influenced me over the years", he added. "Music from pop, world, country, hip hop, bluegrass, rock, soul and gospel have had powerful impacts on me and my style".
Garrett's last solo album, Circles, came out in 2020. Later this year, he'll join the Infamous Stringdusters as they begin touring again.
Wanderer's Compass is due out August 13.