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!
Mary Lou Lord is a music lover. For starters, she was busking for eight years before being signed to a label; there are bands in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame whose careers are shorter than that. She cofounded the Boston chapter of Girls Rock Camp, a summer program designed to foster a positive atmosphere for girls to become empowered through music education. She shares songs that are new to her on her Facebook page, and when she talks about Connie Converse, or points out how much Neil Young’s “Pocahontas” sounds like Carole King’s “He’s a Bad Boy,” you can’t help but get caught up in the giddy excitement of her discovery.
This love of music has led her to becoming a cover-song virtuoso. The width of her song range is remarkable enough, but her ability to infuse the songs with so much of herself is even more so. Here are five songs that have been baptized by Lord.
MP3: Mary Lou Lord – Speeding Motorcycle (Daniel Johnston cover)
Lord got her recorded start on the Kill Rock Stars label, releasing several EPs for them in the ’90s. Her 1995 self-titled EP closes with a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Speeding Motorcycle.” She smooths out the herky-jerkiness of the original, making the song more of a gentle joyride.
MP3: Mary Lou Lord – Jump (Van Halen cover)
Lord’s “Jump” comes from Everybody Wants Some, a Van Halen tribute album recorded by Boston musicians. They touch on multiple genres – “Eruption” played on a church pipe organ is one highlight. Another is “Jump,” which as far as gentle acoustic versions go blows away Aztec Camera’s.
MP3: Mary Lou Lord – 1952 Vincent Black Lightning (Richard Thompson cover)
One of Richard Thompson’s best-loved songs, “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” has a different feel when coming from someone who identifies with Red Molly’s point of view more than James’s. This comes from Live City Sounds, Lord’s return to her subway platform busking roots, and you get a sense how welcome she’d be to listen to in Park Square Station at the end of a long workday.
MP3: Mary Lou Lord – Fearless (Pink Floyd cover)
Pink Floyd’s 1971 B-side “Fearless” is their secret-handshake song, the one that true Floydians point to as a favorite (not to be confused with their famous-handshake song, of course). Lord knows, and perfectly conveys, the mellow power of this song with sweetness and light; if you carry this cover in your heart, guaranteed you’ll never walk alone.
MP3: Mary Lou Lord – Metal Firecracker (Lucinda Williams cover)
In 2005 Lord was sidelined by spasmodic dysphonia, the same voice disorder that waylaid Linda Thompson. But you can’t keep a good indie folkie down, and she’s performing live again and working on a new album, funded in part by Kickstarter (where she raised twice what she was asking for). “Metal Firecracker” was one of the first songs on this new shoot to ripen; we can’t wait to hear the rest.