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L.A. duo Dead Rock West revamps Everly Brothers’ songs at Hotel Cafe

L.A. duo Dead Rock West

Cindy Wasserman, left, and Frank Lee Drennen of L.A.'s Dead Rock West salute the songs and vocal harmonies of Phil and Don Everly in their new album “It’s Everly Time!” The album was released Friday.

(Randy Lewis / Los Angeles Times)

The Everly Brothers’ tribute album "It’s Everly Time!” by Los Angeles duo Dead Rock West goes beyond a simple ode to the pioneering rock artists by recasting the siblings’’ songs for a new generation.

Phil and Don Everly were known for their melodious harmonies half a century ago. Now, Dead Rock West’s Cindy Wasserman and Frank Lee Drennen rework the numbers for a male and female dynamic, also delivering the splendor of two voices locked in close harmony.

At their performance Thursday night at Hotel Café on the eve of the album’s release, Drennen and Wasserman sang by turns with joyful abandon, bittersweet beauty and transcendent sadness, the kind that acts as catharsis for the pain of love lost or love unrequited.

Edward A. Snyder and Richard Ahlert’s "(Why Am I) Chained to a Memory,” one of the lesser-known Everly numbers Dead Rock West dug up in focusing on the siblings’ 1960s work while they were living in California, is a heartbreaking portrait of the way the legacy of soured love can seem utterly ‎inescapable:

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Why does the thought of you still torture me

When will I find someone to set me free

So I won’t be chained to a memory

Drennen and Wasserman bent notes in tandem, musically summoning a flawless union, the kind the song’s lyric laments when it self-destructs. It’s a theme they came back to in the indescribably aching heartbreak ballad “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad).”

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With powerful and resourceful backing from guitarist Geoff Pearlman, pianist-accordionst Phil Parlapiano, bassist Ryan Feves and drummer Kevin Jarvis, Wasserman and Drennen tapped an insistent groove similar to that which Robert Plant and Alison Krauss conjured up on their 2007 version of “Gone, Gone, Gone.”

That was no small feat for the duo, noting that they were scheduled to fly out of LAX for a new tour with veteran L.A. punk group X, which opens Friday night in Connecticut.

Toward the end, they also introduced an original song, “More Love,"‎ that fit stylistically and emotionally alongside the vintage Everly songs.

‎As a quick benedictory salute to their new tour mates, Dead Rock West closed the 40-minute set with a suitably skewed rendition of X’s “Burning House of Love.”

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