Written stories can be read by any voice, but the story's point of view remains the same. Songs, though, are almost always perceived to be sung from the point of view of the singer. The same words mean something different, depending on the attitude and reputation of the singer. In this cover of Tom Waits' I Don't Want to Grow Up, Petra Haden sounds childlike and innocent; you almost expect to hear her say "I'm a Toys'R'Us Kid." It's crueler and more disturbing, because she knows, and we know, that she's going to grow old in a bleak world without magic. Frisell plays with restraint to allow her to seem exposed and vulnerable. Contrast with Tom Waits' version (mp3) from Bone Machine, where you feel the hurt, but it's harder to sympathize with the hard, guttural voice. Or contrast with the Ramones' cover (mp3), a punk anthem in which the lyrics seem to declare defiance, rather than the resignation to fate that you hear in the Haden/Frisell version. The punkers know, and we know, that they won't grow up; they'll take their guitars, ripped jeans and Yoo-Hoos to the grave.
Petra Haden and Bill Frisell - I Don't Want To Grow Up (mp3)
AllAboutJazz.com mentioned the above track and Haden/Frisell's version of When I Wish Upon a Star:
I Don't Want to Grow Up displays more naive than [Tom] Waits' version on Bone Machine, while their reading of I Believe has a certain Beatles-esque quality that belies its composer, Stevie Wonder. The Mancini standard Moon River has been covered by Frisell both live and on record with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Elvin Jones, but never with the kind of rubato elegance found here. When You Wish Upon a Star receives a similarly delicate treatment, with Frisell's solo, deliciously rich, guitar proving all the accompaniment Haden needs to evoke the childlike innocence of the tune.
Here's the similarly delicate treatment:
Petra Haden and Bill Frisell - When You Wish Upon a Star (mp3)
Both Haden/Frisell tracks from Petra Haden and Bill Frisell's self-titled January release.