This year the Newport Folk Festival featured a lot of two things: surprise sit-ins and covers. Roger Waters played with My Morning Jacket, and they covered John Prine. Iron and Wine and Band of Horse’s Ben Bridwell formed a band, and they covered Talking Heads. Most notably, Dawes, Hozier, First Aid Kit, Gillian Welch, Deer Tick, and many more all formed a supergroup to cover a bunch of Bob Dylan songs (for the 50th anniversary of his legendary going-electric performance there).
Titus Andronicus‘s highly-anticipated new double album The Most Lamentable Tragedy clocks in at 29 songs. Amidst killer singles like “Dimed Out” and “Fatal Flow” are 10-minute epics, short hardcore blasts, and a pair of covers: the Pogues‘ “A Pair of Brown Eyes” and Daniel Johnston‘s “I Had Lost My Mind” (they also riff on this one on original track “I Lost My Mind (+@)”. Now you can hear both covers.
For thirteen years, siblings Sara and Sean Watkins – best known as two-thirds of Nickel Creek – have been hosting a monthly “Watkins Family Hour” concert in L.A. Frequent collaborators include Fiona Apple and the Heartbreakers’ Benmont Tench, and they and more have finally recorded a debut album due out next week. It’s all covers, and the closing track is especially timely with the Grateful Dead just wrapping things up last week: the Dead’s American Beauty classic “Brokedown Palace.”
For the past couple years, Bob Dylan has stuck to a pretty standard setlist on tour – kind of a bummer from an artist famous for switching it up night to night. And when he kicked off his new European tour over the weekend, he finally did just that. He’s brought in more songs from his terrific new Frank Sinatra cover album, and in Germany he debuted a cover of Willie Nelson‘s 1973 classic “Sad Songs and Waltzes.”
Dave Grohl broke his leg last week and had to cancel a bunch of shows. Given the spate of recent great Foo Fighters covers though, maybe he should have just turned those dates into tribute concerts. Tessa Rose Jackson’s amazing version of the “The Pretender” might work for a quieter midpoint, but a tribute show should definitely kick off with Los Angeles R&B singer Gallant performing his storming new cover of “Learn to Fly.”
Beatles covers are a dime a dozen these days (we’ve got a review of another tribute album going up later today in fact). The originals are so iconic it can be difficult to put one’s own stamp on it. Most covers stick too close to the originals, but then the braver attempts at dramatic reinterpretations fail ten times as often as they succeed. It’s hard to win.
On his new version of “Julia” though, classically-trained guitarist Jeremy Bass finds a nice middle ground. He reworks the song into a tender bossa nova rhythm for his new album New York in Spring, finding a new beauty in the melody without veering off into novelty Beatles Go Brazil!-type territory.
Justin Vernon of Bon Iver has put together a music festival in his hometown of Eaux Claire, WI this summer, and they’ve been putting some cryptically-titled videos to promote it. One, titled “It Was a Train That Took Me Away From Here…” turns out to be a cover of Tom Waits‘ “Train Song” by Francis and the Lights. Performed surrounded by lights, it’s a beautifully-shot minimalist piano cover a far cry from the full band’s dancier work.
Before he turned to dance music, Las Vegas’s Shamir tried to become a country star. A local producer nixed the idea though, and while it helped him turn to the sound that is so buzzy right now, it was a definite loss for country. He’s shown that before, with a great cover of Linda Ortega and Miranda Lambert, and now he does it again covering Kacey Musgraves‘ “Merry ‘Go Round.”