Jun 302010
 

Tribute Throwback shines some light on an underexposed tribute album. Enter to win a copy!

A few years ago I was poking around a Chicago record store and came across an intriguing album: Headed for the Ditch: A Michigan Tribute to Neil Young. I thought I knew all Neil Young cover collections, but this one I’d never heard of. I only knew one band on there, but the packaging looked nice and the price was right, so I picked it up. It worked out better than most impulse purchases I’ve made (incidentally, anyone want a lava lamp nightlight?).

The album contains eleven new covers by Michigan artists, ranging from Edward’s beautiful slow-building “Birds” to the Hard Lessons’ seven-minute blast through “Hey, Hey, My, My.” The disc hit the right blend of acoustic and electric, faithful and exploratory. Plus how many Neil Young tributes include “We R in Control,” the song from Neil’s ill-fated electronic venture Trans?

Now before you run off to iTunes, I’ll save you some time: You won’t find it. The old-school purists at Lower Peninsula Records only release their stuff on vinyl. But boy do they do a fine job. The beautiful gatefold packaging features a stitched 16-page booklet with handwritten lyrics and drawings by every band on the album. It sounds great and comes in a coffee table-worthy package to boot.

Oh, and did I mention we have one to give away? [EDIT: This contest is now closed.] Continue reading »

Jun 302010
 

Song of the Day posts one cool cover every morning. Catch up on past installments here.

If you ever come across a list of the top punk songs ever and find that “Sonic Reducer” is not somewhere in the top twenty, throw that list away. The Dead Boys never achieved the crossover name recognition of the Sex Pistols or Buzzcocks. Was ever the f*ck-my-parents, fight-the-power ethos summed up so poetically as in that final verse:

I’ll be a pharaoh soon
Rule from some golden tomb
Things will be different then
The sun will rise from here
Then I’ll be ten feet tall
And you’ll be nothing at all.

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Jun 292010
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Alejandro Escovedo has been recording great rock and roll for decades, but his profile has never been higher. This is largely the result of two things: Hepatitis C and Bruce Springsteen.

Say what? Let’s take them one at a time. Escovedo came down with a severe form of Hepatitis C a few years back. Like many musicians, he did not have insurance for his mounting medical bills. Unlike many musicians, he had friends and admirers in folks like Steve Earle, Los Lonely Boys, and Son Volt. They came together an all-star Americana tribute album, raising money for Escovedo and turning fans onto the Texas songwriter in the process. Thanks in part to that effort, Escovedo is now disease-free.

Then, in 2008 Bruce Springsteen brought him on stage for an Austin show. Springsteen’s guests usually help on “Thunder Road” or “Glory Days” or something, but the E Street Band played Escovedo’s own “Always a Friend,” then sold that performance on iTunes. Watching Escovedo’s excitement will give you a warm fuzzy feeling. Incidentally, the Boss appears on Escovedo’s latest album Street Songs of Love (in stores today) to duet on “Faith.”
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Jun 292010
 

We know the Lemonheads are great at covering others – their last release was the best cover album of 2009 – and now we know their originals are just as cover-able. Scottish indie folkies Frightened Rabbit lend their heavy brogue to “Confetti,” turning a poppy song into a major bummer.

“There’s a pretty typical Scottish glumness, spreading over the whole thing like nasty butter,” singer Scott Hutchison said. Anyone bold enough to describe their music as “nasty butter” deserves a listen. The cover of the It’s a Shame About Ray single comes via the A.V. Undercover series, which we’ve posted about before.
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Jun 292010
 

Song of the Day posts one cool cover every morning. Catch up on past installments here.

The Cold War Kids covering Creedence Clearwater Revival is like Coldplay covering U2, Lady Gaga covering Madonna, or John Mayer covering Eric Clapton. Every aspect of their sound indicates the Kids hold John Fogerty and CCR in some esteem, so you wonder if a cover can make the leap beyond mere reverence.

It can. The Kids have been playing “Long As I Can See the Light” on tour for a little while now, but this performance at Rolling Stone HQ strips the band down a organ-fueled trio. Nathan Willett’s cracking falsetto can bring new emotion to even the most obvious choice.
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Jun 282010
 

David Bazan is endlessly fascinating. Known primarily for his work with Pedro the Lion, he has spent decades on the Christian rock circuit questioning the religion’s basic tenants. The fantastic Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock aptly describes him as “leading his listeners out of the desert of certainty, preaching the gospel of doubt.” He won’t play most Christian music festivals and most Christian music festivals wouldn’t have him anyway.

A few months ago Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie fame performed Pedro the Lion’s first single “Big Trucks” at a Stereogum SXSW event. After all this waiting though, a video just surfaced. It’s a close-up pro-grade recording (shot for Stereogum I’m guessing, though they never posted it) that looks good and sounds better. Nice of Gibbard to shout out a fellow Seattleite, who actually opened for Death Cab on tour in 2007 (that’s Bazan on the left in the photo above, Gibbard on the right).
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