Jun 212017
 
buddy guy mick jagger

Buddy Guy and the Rolling Stones have crossed paths many times over the years, regularly sitting in at each other’s concerts and paying mutual homage in interviews. But they haven’t actually recorded together much. That changes on a new tribute album.

On Chicago Plays the Stones, a host of Chicago blues vets cover classic Stones tracks for a fitting response to the Stones’ own recent blues album Blue & Lonesome. One name stands above the rest though: Buddy Guy’s. And he pulls in a special guest for his cover of Goats Head Soup rarity “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker).”

As anyone who has seen Guy live recently can attest, the guitarist hasn’t lost a step at age 80. His solos on “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo” remain furious, and his singing as emotive as ever. Then, about halfway through, that special guest slips in: Mick Jagger himself, trading vocals with Buddy in a wonderful back-and-forth and wailing on some serious blues harmonica. It’s a fantastic duet that has somehow remained under the radar since its release last month, not appearing on Spotify or YouTube or anywhere else. Well, we’ve got it below. It was worth the wait. Continue reading »

Jun 212017
 
chrysta bell falling

Laura Dern. Naomi Watts. And, of course, Kyle MacLachlan. David Lynch has long had muses, actors and actresses he’s returned to again and again through his career. All three of these appear in the new Twin Peaks, as does his latest muse, Chrysta Bell. The difference is, she’s not an actress. FBI Agent Preston is her first role.

Bell is a musician, one Lynch has recorded with on several albums and EPs. Her music falls right in the Lynchian mold, creepy and haunted and dark. And for her new song, she teams up with the other master for creepy and haunted and dark, This Mortal Coil co-founder John Fryer. In honor of her new role, it’s a cover of Julee Cruise’s classic Twin Peaks theme “Falling.” Continue reading »

Jun 192017
 
efya cover

Though Dolly Parton originally wrote and recorded “I Will Always Love You” as a country song, Whitney Houston’s R&B-blast cover has become the gold standard (there’s a chapter about it in my new book about covers). It’s become a staple of American Idol contestants and overly ambitious karaoke singers. The bigger, the belt-ier, the better. No one can top Whitney, but everyone seems to try.

In a refreshing change, Efya takes the song in an entirely different direction. A star in her native Ghana, she actually also got her start in a televised talent show, but you wouldn’t know it from the subtlety and taste she shows here. Accompanied by only a keyboard and African “talking drum,” she strips the song way back in a new live recording for Okayafrica. By tweaking the melody and rhythm, she transform the song into something dark and mournful. When she finally does open up at the end, the vocal power feels totally earned. Continue reading »

Jun 162017
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

OOGAH-chucka-OOGAH-OOGAH! OOGAH-chucka-OOGAH-OOGAH!

Back in 1974, anybody hearing those syllables for the first time stopped dead in their tracks. “What the hell is that?” tended to be the first thought, closely followed by nodding or singing along. Of course, it was the opening seconds of “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede, a song that went to number one on Billboard‘s charts and has resonated through the decades, with its inclusion on the soundtracks of Reservoir Dogs and Guardians of the Galaxy, not to mention its use in the dancing-baby-hallucination episode of Ally McBeal and the deliberately-bizarre-but-so-what cover by David Hasselhoff. Wired called it “a song that refuses to die, popping up again and again in the zeitgeist when you least expect it. It’s the Highlander of pop music.”

Here’s the thing – many of 1974’s listeners were among the 1969 listeners who put the original version of “Hooked on a Feeling” in the top five in America. How quickly we forget, eh? Well, no – it’s more like, how quickly we adjust to a new reality.
Continue reading »

Jun 142017
 
sade covers

There’s something about Sade that’s hard to put your finger on. Her voice is beautiful, but always feels understated. Her music is soft, smooth R&B, but appeals to a population of listeners well outside the genre. With a career that has spanned over three decades, she’s made music that has influenced a wide range of artists. For proof, look no further than two recent covers by very different artists.

The first is by Rare Futures, a band started by Matthew Fazzi, the ex-guitarist of pop-punk group Taking Back Sunday. Rare Futures walk a line between rock and R&B in their cover of Sade’s 1992 hit “No Ordinary Love.” Their version is not revolutionary, but does add a little grit to the original. The song is heavy on bass and high hat and includes some callouts to the original: the hard stops following the heavy sighs and the spot-on harmonies are nice touches. The band throws in a heavier pre-chorus and nice dual guitar breakdown at the end, keeping the cover interesting. Continue reading »

Jun 132017
 
northside fest

For decades, there have been two dominant names in the music-discovery festival game: SXSW in Austin and CMJ in NYC. While the typical festival books the biggest acts they can afford, these two deliberately focus on a plethora of new and obscure artists looking for their big break. Last year, though, one of those twin pillars collapsed with CMJ’s mysterious disappearance) amidst all manner of controversy and turmoil).

Brooklyn’s more recent Northside Festival was already positioning itself as a CMJ Jr. when we went last June, focusing on showcasing hundreds of up-and-comers on rather than a few big names. Well, there’s no “Jr.” any more. With CMJ gone, Northside became New York’s default replacement.

It’s ready to fill the role though, bringing a wide array of artists from across the country to Williamsburg for one weekend. As we did last year, we picked our five favorite discoveries we’ve never written about here before, with a cover from each. Continue reading »