Of the critically beloved UK female solo acts to impact the American music scene in the latter half of the last decade, Corinne Bailey Rae occupied the middle of the spectrum in nearly every way. While every bit as accomplished as her fellow exports, she was neither as brash as Lily Allen nor as morose as Adele, more earthly than Alison Goldfrapp and less ethereal than Duffy, not a controversial troubled auteur like Amy Winehouse nor pre-packaged pop product like Leona Lewis. Rae might be the most accessible artist of the bunch, particularly on her self-titled 2005 debut album, which earned Grammy nods for the album and singles, “Like a Star” and “Put Your Records On.” Following her husband’s sudden death from accidental overdose in early 2008, though, Rae took an indefinite hiatus from music, finally returning in early 2010 with The Sea, which displayed the singer’s artistic growth without abandoning the singer’s comfortable, if not especially adventurous, brand of mellow neo-soul.
John Vanderslice has been cranking out solid indie rock for over a decade, but always seems to lurk just under the radar. His latest album, out today, features a special treat we hope will win him a new fan or two: a cover of Atlas Sound’s “Walkabout.” The tune comes from the exclusive Amazon package for White Wilderness (on sale there for $3.99).
Yes, we know 2010 ended a while ago, but the tributes just keep coming. The latest comes from Irish record label Quarter Inch Collective. They recruited their favorite artists to look back on 2010 with some covers on their new release Quompilation. Thirteen bands put their spin on 2010 hits (Rihanna’s “Rude Boy”) and indie gems (Villagers’ “Becoming a Jackal”). There’s the obligatory Kanye West nod, but generally the choices prove refreshingly unusual.
Tonight President Barack Obama gives his second official State of the Union address to the American public. Every time I watch these, I can’t help feeling bad for the Vice President and Speaker of the House. Seated behind the Pres, the two remain on camera pretty much the entire time, despite having nothing to do. One errant nose-pick or eye-roll though and it’s all anyone will be talking about the next day. One wonders if their minds are too occupied with proper decorum to even pay attention.
Rockabilly artists, playing a hybrid of rock’n’roll and country music, formed the vanguard of musicians who broke a new form of music to the nation in the mid ‘50s. Though known as rock and roll pioneers, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent and Bill Haley really played rockabilly. In an industry dominated by men, some women managed to find success, and none more so than Wanda Jackson. Crowned “The Queen of Rockabilly,” she released a series of singles in the ’50s and 60’s still coveted by genre aficionados today.
Recently recruited by the inexhaustible Jack White for his Third Man Records label, she recorded her latest album, The Party Ain’t Over, with his assistance as producer and bandleader. The album starts with a Dap-Kings-style horn intro leading into White ripping into “Shakin’ All Over”. The band sounds tight but not over-rehearsed, and White summons hellfire with his solos. Jackson deftly handles the vocal on the next track, Little Richard’s “Rip It Up” and the band plays as the title demands.
White’s presence looms large over the album, from the warm, analog sound of his production – you can almost feel the glow of the tubes – to the high-energy performances and inspired arrangements. Jackson seems, at times, unable match the sound White creates. She sounds out of her element vocally on tracks like “Busted” and “Like A Baby.” She falls flat on Amy Winehouse‘s “You Know That I’m No Good,” struggling to hit the notes and stripping the song of its drama.
Perhaps the error is in the song selection – apparently White’s domain – because Jackson nails the vocals on some of the tracks. She kills on Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on the Mountain”, never missing a beat. No easy task; many have tried to sing Dylan and failed miserably. If White had taken the limitations of Jackson’s voice more into account – she always did sound ‘unique’ – a better album would have resulted.
The Party Ain’t Over Tracklist:
01. Shakin’ All Over (Johnny Kidd & The Pirates cover)
02. Rip It Up (Little Richard cover)
03. Busted (Harlan Howard song most associated with Johnny Cash)
04. Rum and Coca Cola (The Andrews Sisters cover)
05. Thunder on the Mountain (Bob Dylan cover)
06. You Know That I’m No Good (Amy Winehouse cover)
07. Like a Baby (Elvis Presley cover)
08. Nervous Breakdown (Eddie Cochran cover)
09. Dust on the Bible (Gospel song most associated with Kitty Wells)
10. Teach Me Tonight (Sammy Cahn cover)
11. Blue Yodel #6 (Jimmie Rodgers cover)
Check out more Wanda Jackson on her website.
When we named Nada Surf’s If I Had a Hi-Fi one of the best cover albums of 2010, we noted that “Enjoy the Silence” offered one of the few nods to well-known material. Perhaps the band agrees, because after pushing single Bill Fox’s “Electrocution” last year, they’ve released the Depeche Mode cover as their latest video. Get ready to emote!