Jul 242017
 
applewood road cover

On their debut album, the three ladies of Applewood Road have perfected the art of the blend. Their intricate and layered harmonies drill into the quality of every note while simultaneously sounding effortless and breezy.

If you haven’t heard of these extraordinary musicians yet, you will soon. We’ve written about all three in their various solo endeavors in the past: Amy Speace, Emily Barker, and Amber Rubarth. Popular already in the UK, they are poised to take over the US with the upcoming release of their self titled album. In addition to their fantastic originals, the album includes a cover of R.E.M.‘s “Losing My Religion”. Continue reading »

Jul 202017
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Released in 1979, Gary Numan’s “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” was the second single from the album Replicas, his last with the band Tubeway Army. The surprise #1 UK hit topped the charts for a month, paving the way for the global success that came with “Cars” later that year, and to this day it remains a staple in Numan’s live performances.

“Friends” has garnered more than its fair share of covers – 21 artists on iTunes alone, and countless more on YouTube, have given us their takes on the song. Here are five (or so) that stand out…
Continue reading »

Jul 182017
 
anthony damato covers

If someone told you to sing “This Land Is Your Land,” how much could you do off the top of your head? Redwood forest, check. Ribbon of highway probably too. But do you know this verse?

Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
That side was made for you and me.

That rarely-sung verse, from Woody Guthrie’s original lyrics, helped inspire Anthony D’Amato’s shimmering new cover (which features background vocals from Josh Ritter). Though written in 1940, that line about walls dividing people holds increasing resonance today. And it’s a subject D’Amato cares a lot about; his last album included the Trump-inspired original “If You’re Gonna Build A Wall” and both tracks appear on new charity EP Won’t You Be My Neighbor. Continue reading »

Jul 172017
 
shawn butzin

Covering one of the greatest and most distinctive vocalists of all time is a risky proposition. Many Roy Orbison covers deconstruct the songs so the new singer can tweak the melody, under-sing, or otherwise dodge away from head-to-head comparison with Roy. But on his beautiful new cover of “Blue Bayou,” Michigan’s Shawn Butzin faces the challenge directly. And, against all offs, he nails it.

Butzin brings a country twang to “Blue Bayou,” sounding closer to Roy’s Sun Records roots than the original did. He’s got the expressive voice to sell the melody, crooning over harmonica and subtle backing vocals. It’s a tribute, he says, to another Butzin with a golden voice. Continue reading »

Jul 142017
 

If you are a regular reader of this site, you may remember this post from a couple months back, about the (to my ears) hotly anticipated shared project between English folkstrel Olivia Chaney and Portland quirkmeisters the Decemberists. Well, the lovely people at Nonesuch have now released Offa Rex’s The Queen of Hearts, and mighty fine it is too.

Chaney may not be especially well known to many, unless you were lucky enough to catch the last round of occasional Joe Boyd-curated Nick Drake tribute shows, featuring a host of singers and musicians from varied sources. Chaney was undoubtedly one of the stars of the one I saw, alongside company like Glen Hansard and Sam “Iron and Wine” Beam. This led me to her 2015 release, The Longest River, which I can commend. The Decemberists are much better known and have long been drawn to the canon of trad.arr., especially singer Colin Meloy. Indeed, one might surmise the seeds for Offa Rex were sown by a tour-only EP Meloy produced in 2006, Colin Meloy Sings Shirley Collins. Indeed, Meloy says he invited Chaney to the table by suggesting in a tweet that his band be her Albion Country Band. Queen of Hearts shows them not making a half-bad shot of it, with side-orders aplenty of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, not to mention a little of fellow U.S. travelers 10,000 Maniacs on the keyboard swirl of “Bonnie May.”
Continue reading »