May 252018
 
bill murray bob dylan

Last night, tons of venues all over the world held Bob Dylan tribute concerts to celebrate his birthday. New York’s Town Hall was one of them, but with a twist: They had performers cover only the songs Bob himself played there in a famous 1963 concert. This led to some real deep cuts mixed in with the early Freewheelin’-era classics.

And that wasn’t the only thing unusual about the evening. Two of the biggest names were not, technically, singers. Bill Murray warbled “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” and Steve Buscemi recited “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” (the song that got Dylan kicked off Ed Sullivan). Buscemi delivered a fantastically passionate reading of his deep cut, while Bill Murray – well, it was nice of him to show up, and we’ll leave it at that. Continue reading »

May 242018
 
shilpa ray alice cooper cover

“Who knew Alice Cooper wrote feminist anthems?”

That’s the question New York goth-punk singer Shilpa Ray wrote on Bandcamp introducing her new cover of Cooper’s “Is It My Body” – and it’s a good one. He actually tried to make that point himself when he was on Marc Maron’s show a few months back, pointing to a song like “Only Women Bleed” (which Etta James, of all people, has covered). A track like that, he argued, was a far cry from the horrorshow makeup and on-stage guillotine. Continue reading »

May 222018
 

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

stars cover songs

Last year, we said Stars’ version of “This Charming Man” was the best cover of the song ever. You know who agreed with us? Smiths drummer Mike Joyce (he called it the best Smiths cover period). You know who else? Prince.

Stars frontman Torquil Campbell (he’s on the right in that photo) tells the full story below in his Pick Five entry. And he’s a man who knows his covers. In 2016, Stars launched a monthly covers series, tackling everyone from Bob Dylan to a pre-MAGA Kanye West. Not only were the covers great individually, but the disparate source material fit together perfectly under the Canadian collective’s signature indie-pop umbrella. Here are some highlights: Continue reading »

May 222018
 

john wesley harding coversOn “Bastard Son,” one of the early recordings by John Wesley Harding, the singer, songwriter, novelist and overall renaissance man self-describes himself as the bastard son of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, a description that seems to be pretty much accurate. Whether you are listening to one of the albums released under his nom de plume or reading one of his novels under his given name Wesley Stace, the conclusion is the same. This is one talented guy. Continue reading »

May 212018
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

frightened rabbit covers

As a musician that avidly records cover songs, I often think about what draws me to putting my stamp on a particular song.

In the thirty years I’ve been playing covers, I find myself drawn to music that could be described as “emotional” without always fitting neatly into a genre box. I connect with a song’s content craft enough to try to reinvent it from the inside out. I am always drawn to songs of love lost, forlorn, or unrequited. The “breakup” song itself is something I immediately can empathize with, which is why a lot of my covers fall under the category of “ballad,” for better or worse.

Now one of my favorite writers of such songs has left us, and it’s really hit me hard. Having first seen Frightened Rabbit live in an intimate setting in Chicago after the release of The Midnight Organ Fight about a decade ago, lead singer Scott Hutchison was one of those frontmen that I immediately identified with. Continue reading »

May 212018
 
the districts love will tear us apart

One of the most gut-wrenching songs ever written, Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is
regularly included in lists of greatest rock songs of all time. And on their punky new cover, Pennsylvania quartet the Districts update the dark classic. Many artists have covered the 1980 post-punk classic, but the Districts brings a 2018 sound to the track, with a less pronounced bass and synthesizer. And although some old schoolers will contend what made the original so great was Ian’s non-standard voice, I’d argue the Districts’ vocals are a significant improvement. Continue reading »