Jun 182018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

fantastic negrito cover songs

In the year 2000, the musician known as Fantastic Negrito almost died. A car accident put him in a three-week coma before requiring months of brutal physical therapy. When he finally got out of the hospital, permanent damage to his guitar-playing hand forced him to retire from music. He eventually moved to Oakland and became an urban farmer growing vegetables and, as his new bio artfully puts it, “other, more profitable, green matter.”

A lot has happened since then. He eventually returned to music, and quickly achieved the sort of milestones he never did the first time around. He won the first-ever NPR Tiny Desk Contest in 2015, earned a longtime champion and mentor in Chris Cornell, and, just last year, won his first Grammy award, for Best Contemporary Blues Album. But the accident’s after-effects linger in his mind on new album Please Don’t Be Dead, which features a real photo from his hospital stay as its cover. Watch the music video for single “The Duffler”: Continue reading »

Jun 182018
 
the wild feathers neon moon

For a lot of us, a good cover song starts and stops with the careful curation of the song itself. And when done right, when the artist covering the song puts their entire body and soul into the delivery, it’s almost as if you have entered into a way-back machine taking you back to another time, another place, another band. With The Wild Feathers version of “Neon Moon,” they have hit the cover song sweet spot. Continue reading »

Jun 152018
 
best cover songs 1978

Welcome to the third installment in our Best Cover Songs of Yesteryear countdown, where we act like we were compiling our usual year-end list from a year before we – or the internet – existed. Compared to the first two, this one has significantly less grunge than 1996 and less post-punk than 1987. It’s hard to have post-punk, after all, before you have punk, a new genre starting to hit its peak in 1978. And don’t forget the other big late-’70s sound: disco. Both genres were relatively new, and super divisive among music fans. Lucky for us, both genres were also big on covers.

Disco, in particular, generated some hilariously ill-advised cover songs. We won’t list them all here – this is the Best 1978 covers, not the Most 1978 covers. If you want a taste (and think carefully about whether you really do), this bonkers take on a Yardbirds classic serves as a perfect example of what a good portion of the year’s cover songs looked and sounded like: Continue reading »

Jun 152018
 

KidjoBono, whom Angélique Kidjo has taken heat for performing with on account of the collaboration signaling a lack of African purity on her part, famously and pretentiously begins the bombastic and mostly successful cover of “Helter Skelter” that kicks off U2’s concert album Rattle and Hum by proclaiming, “Charles Manson stole this song from the Beatles. We’re stealing it back.” I was reminded of this line when I eagerly volunteered to review Kidjo’s full album cover of Talking Heads‘ most Afro-inspired album, Remain in Light. I anticipated the album to be an act of musical liberation that brought traditional instrumentation to the most famous set of songs that had appropriated polyrhythmic composition in service of the definitely Western agenda of documenting David Byrne’s typically anxious anticipation of the Reagan years. The review, I thought, was going to write itself. It is inevitable, I imagined concluding, that removing the veil of cultural appropriation allows us to feel like we hearing these songs for the first time, “same as it ever was.”

This will not be that review. Continue reading »

Jun 142018
 
devildriver john carter cash

I interviewed John Carter Cash – Johnny’s son – a few years ago (for my book‘s chapter on “Hurt”). He told me how, as a huge metal fan growing up in the 1980s, he dragged his dad with him to Metallica and Iron Maiden concerts. It’s not clear that created a deep and abiding appreciation of heavier sounds in the Man in Black – lord knows it proved hard enough for Rick Rubin to convince him to cover Nine Inch Nails – but maybe this new metal “Ghost Riders in the Sky” cover would convince him.

It comes from California metal band DevilDriver, who take on all sorts of outlaw-country classics on the upcoming album Outlaws ‘Til The End: Vol. 1. And for their cover of Cash’s cover of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” (the song was first recorded by its writer, Stan Jones), they recruited a ringer to bridge the gap: John Carter Cash himself. Continue reading »

Jun 122018
 
monty python covers

Whether the famed British comedy troupe was singing about cross-dressing lumberjacks, the religious significance of ejaculation or a knight fleeing from battle, Monty Python‘s music makes you just want to sway and sing along even all these years later. A perfect example is “Galaxy Song,” the Python’s infinitely catchy ode to the joys of space. Written by Eric Idle and John Du Prez and introduced to the world 1983’s The Meaning of Life, “Galaxy Song” explores both the metaphysics and astrophysics of humanity’s place among the stars: Continue reading »