Out of a stoic silence, a buoyant set of mandolin strings quaintly unravel before our ears, leaving a trail of effervescent harmonies in their wake. The southern drawl of an organ penetrates their melodic sway, but it’s not enough to smother the hypnotic sound that they’re cultivating from a distance. A touch of percussion enters the frame, but it’s as delicate and fragile as thin glass, reflecting a contemplative tone in contrast with the sensuous rhythm being perpetuated by the strings. Dan Lotti starts to sing in a half-whisper, his words bouncing off of the sonic ribbonry in the foreground and reverberating into the ethers for what feels like an eternity. This is Andrew Hendryx’s version of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” and calling it anything less than an ensnaring but subtle indie rock anthem would almost be criminal.
Dan Lotti’s voice is woven into the fabric of the verses to such a great extent that it’s hard to tell where his glistening vocal timbre ends and the melody of the Hendryx’s band begins. Everything is perfectly synchronized, picking us up like the current of a roaring river and ripping us through whitewater harmonies that rage viciously but never spill out of the speakers violently. Shortly before the three minute mark, a blistering organ solo lights a fire under the percussion and pushes the song into a gallop, but despite its intensity, we return to the pendulousness of the chorus to find that Lotti hasn’t even begun to show us what he can do when he’s got a microphone in his hands and nothing to hold him back.
As the song reaches a bittersweet climax, we’re bombarded with one blast of instrumental might after another, but the vocal never gets lost in the discord of Hendryx and his band’s play. The verses provide a bit of stability, Lotti’s howling vocal becomes a beacon of light in the darkness, and by the time that the song reaches a theatrical conclusion in a hail of unstoppable rhythm and uncompromised tonality, we’ve fallen under the band’s spell and are left itching to play the track all over again. I’ve been a music critic for a long time, and though I’m a devout fan of Van Morrison, I think that this cover of the iconic song is about as close as anyone has ever come to surpassing the aesthetical depth of the original.
There’s so much to be said about what Andrew Hendryx has done in his latest single that it seems almost disingenuous to highlight one particular facet of “Into the Mystic” over another. Around every corner, there’s a startlingly tight melody waiting to pummel us with textured emotion that feels as powerful as anything that Van Morrison’s version ever contained. I’ve never been the biggest believer in cover songs as singles, but in this particular situation, listeners would be doing themselves a grave disservice in avoiding Hendryx’s “Into the Mystic.” This performer has been making a lot of waves left of the dial, and a single like this one could easily bring him the mainstream attention that he’s been fighting so hard for.