The Portland Cello Project is made up of anywhere from eight to 10 Oregon-based, classically trained cellists who get together and put a cello spin on all kinds of nonclassical music, from Justin Timberlake to Salt-N-Pepa—basically, what you'd expect from a group that calls themselves an "indie cello orchestra." So, it follows that a record from the group would be fabulous: After all, cello versions of indie, pop, metal and/or rock songs, and new arrangements of traditional/classical songs, can't be boring.
But The Thao and Justin Power Sessions is, sadly enough, a little boring. On it, the Project's second CD, they add their cello touch to a few songs by both titular artists (who are, incidentally, married) as well as a Pantera song ("Mouth for War"), a tango piece ("Por Una Cabeza"), a choral work based on a William Blake poem (John Tavener's "The Lamb") and a Norfolk and Western song ("Turkish Wine"). At times, the result is striking, as with the cello smacks and tumult on "Mouth for War," and the high-pitched crying on Power's "Hungry Liars."
But Thao's songs sound merely like near-Muzak versions with the vocal track accidentally left on. "Geography" is a little drunker, "Violet" a little prettier, and "Tallymarks" a little sadder, but the operative word here is "little."
Mostly, The Thao and Justin Power Sessions is a great showcase for Powers' excellent songs, but more dramatic interpretations or new collaborations would have elevated this from a nice record into something much more interesting.