Mick Harvey has been a very musician for well over twenty years now. A co-founder of the bands The Birthday Party and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds (along with Nick Cave), Harvey is a multi-instrumentalist, an arranger, a producer, and a film soundtrack composer. In addition to Cave, he's worked with P.J. Harvey, Conway Savage, and Anita Lane. In the 90s, he released two albums of Serge Gainsbourg covers (The Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephants). Even though it still has several cover tracks, One Man's Treasure is sort of the debut full length from Harvey, as it features several original songs by him and is in large part all played by him (he laid down the basic tracks at his home studio and added strings and some drums later).
The disc opens with one of the strongest moments in a cover of Lee Hazelwood's "First St. Blues." The comtemplative track features a melancholy piano melody and Harvey's aching voice alongside some subtle strings that all build nicely for a perfect lead-in. From there, he covers Nick Cave's "Come Into My Sleep," and with organ and some quiet guitar and strings, Harvey builds the track much the same as Cave, but with more understated vocals. Comparing the tracks side-by-side, it's easy to hear why Cave is a frontman, as his projection and power as a vocalist makes Harvey sound like he's a bit sleepy.
One of the main things that really hurt Harvey's Gainsbourg cover albums was their uniformity in terms of overall song progression and sound. Pink Elephants especially suffered from fairly bland instrumentation, and Harvey has largely remedied that on this batch of tracks, with some quiet, jazz-influenced pieces and some more rocking numbers. Given his tepid previous cover albums, it's interesting that the covers on this release stand out as pretty darn good interpretations (other than the Cave piece, which can't help but be compared to the original). His cover of Tim Buckley's "The River" finds Harvey stretching his vocal territory a bit for some good variety while "Mother Of Earth" (by the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce of The Gun Club) is a dark, western-influenced piece that rumbles with gritty guitar and sparse instrumentation.
Unfortunately, there are a few missteps on the release. "Demon Alcohol" sounds like a Nick Cave b-side with less subtle lyrics, while "Planetarium" is a languid piece that swirls some organ and guitar together but never really goes much of anywhere. Elsewhere, though, Harvey shows a bit of a sense of playfullness with the great "Hank Williams Said It Best." As a whole, One Man's Treasure is a pretty decent little Australian alt country-influenced album from a hardworking musician. It's not quite as engaging as Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, but in a pinch it will do.