Mar 312017
 

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!

mavericks

Read any article about the Mavericks and you are almost guaranteed to see the word “eclectic.” And that is fair. Their music is a cocktail of country, rock, blues, folk, Cuban, Tex-Mex, swing, and probably other genres, that somehow all works together. It is surely a testament to the strong writing, tight playing, and maybe most of all, the rich vocals and riveting stage presence of singer Raul Malo, that the band is able to meld these influences into a coherent body of work.

Also, they are an amazing live act, which doesn’t hurt.
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Mar 272017
 
man

“17 years after America lost WW2, the country is divided and controlled by Japan and Germany. From out of the lawless neutral zone comes The Man in the High Castle’s Resistance Radio, a secret network of pirate DJs broadcasting sounds of hope.”

That’s a cooler introduction than most musical compilations get. This incredible soundtrack for Amazon’s popular TV series The Man in the High Castle was produced by Danger Mouse and Sam Cohen, who adds his own musical talents to covers of “The House of the Rising Sun” and “Get Happy.” Cohen joins a high caliber line up of musicians including Beck, Karen O, The Shins, and Norah Jones as they imagine a world where the Axis has won and musicians have gone rogue.

The current trend seems to be a marked return to the golden age of music and this influx of nostalgic talent works perfectly for the producers of the soundtrack. On advanced tracks, Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten, and Benjamin Booker perform covers that are nearly identical to their predecessors. Continue reading »

Mar 242017
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

emm gryner

In Canada, and among elite musicians, it seems foolish to claim that the work of Emm Gryner flies under the radar. She has a dozen and a half releases to her name, not counting the ones with the folk trio Trent Severn (where she sings and plays bass) and the hard rockers Trapper. She’s played with David Bowie’s band and opened for Def Leppard. Nelly Furtado named her album Science Fair as a desert island disc. Bono was once asked what songs of the previous 20 years he wished he’d written; Gryner’s “Almighty Love” was one of the half-dozen or so he named.
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Mar 222017
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

bringing it all back home covers

Bob Dylan’s 1965 Newport Folk Festival concerts is one of the most famous – or infamous – performances of all time, subject to numerous books, documentaries, and debates over why Pete Seeger threatened to cut the power cable with an axe. But the fact is, by the time he stepped on that stage, Dylan had already gone electric, four months prior. The first half of his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home – which turns 52 today – is all electric. And not the sort of light electric augmentation other folk singers were experimenting with either. The first track “Subterranean Homesick Blues” may still be the loudest, hardest track of Dylan’s entire career. He’d already drawn his line in the sand; the folk-music crowd had just chosen to ignore it.

To celebrate this landmark album’s 52nd birthday, we’re giving it the full-album treatment. Our recent tributes to Dylan albums have covered underrated works like 1978’s Street Legal and 1985’s Empire Burlesque, but today we return to the classics. Such classics, in fact, that in addition to our main cover picks we list some honorable-mention bonus covers for each song. Continue reading »

Mar 212017
 
streets of philadelphia cover

“Streets of Philadelphia” is one of Bruce Springsteen’s best-known songs since his 1980s ubiquity, even winning him an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1994. But for whatever reason, the man himself doesn’t play it live very much. Since the 1990s, he’s only performed it twice outside the titular city (and even there he often skips it).

Luckily, other artists are filling the void. The past month has seen two terrific covers surface, one by Ryan Adams and the other by Berlin electronic duo Lea Porcelain. While Adams has a tendency to cover less obvious fare – think Danzig or Taylor Swift (for a full album no less) – Springsteen falls squarely in his wheelhouse. So his cover is about what you’d expect from a solo acoustic performance – but few artists put as much emotion into solo acoustic performances as Ryan Adams. Even if he’s not wildly rearranging it, his cover proves powerful in a quiet way. Continue reading »

Mar 202017
 
allaboard

Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” has traveled a varied path, covered by Letters to Cleo, Dwight Yoakam, and Chris Isaak, to name a few notables. This stripped-down version, however, is a far cry from the many incarnations of the song – starting with the fact that it is sung by a clown.

Throughout its cover evolution, “I Want You to Want Me” has stayed decidedly upbeat, with full bands, peppy harmonies, and an overall pop feel. Consider for a moment, however, the lyrics to the song:

Feelin’ all alone without a friend
You know you feel like dyin’
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I
See you cryin’

Which begs the question: why is this an upbeat pop song in the first place? It sounds more like a lover’s lament, which is exactly what Puddles Pity Party finds in his version. The tempo is slowed down to a rate where you can really let those lyrics sink into your bones. His voice oozes over the notes with a clear, affecting tone. A guitar is the sole accompaniment. Continue reading »