“When I Get Low, I Get High” was written by Marion Sunshine and famously performed by Ella Fitzgerald, whose vocal ease provided a well-dispositioned mischief to the sly song, pretty obviously about smoking weed while depressed… unless it’s just about reveling in the blues… but let’s say it’s both. At the Newport Folk Festival last week, Fiona Apple joined Nickel Creek’s Sean and Sara Watkins to provide her own, frenetic spin on the track. (The Watkins siblings were performing as part of their side project, the Watson Family Hour.)
Subtle shifts in Apple’s style of singing were notable on 2012’s The Idler Wheel, where she seemed, with counterintuitive control, to couple the agelessness of her formerly grounded contralto with childlike frailty and unpredictability. The musician thus seems at a perfect point to be covering jazz standards like this, whose emotional life can only be pinned down through impeccable vocal agility. (The Idler Wheel‘s “Left Alone” comes closest to matching the jazzy hyperactivity heard here.) It’s also an interesting thematic choice for Apple, whose own musical expressions of her lows are the thing with which fans so highly, and personally, seem to connect.
Watch her performance from the Jane Pickens Theater in Newport:
And here’s the Ella Fitzgerald version: