Dave Cowan

Dave Cowan has been employed in the radio industry for so long that he remembers when his job was viewed as “cool.” Unwilling to learn a respectable trade he continues playing music through large terrestrial transmitters and towers. Yet he sleeps well knowing he works for the last best (and locally owned) station in the Last Best Place – Missoula, MT. Dave even hosts a cover song feature, the “Five O’clock Shadow,” Monday-Thursday at www.trail1033.com. Dave and his wife Jackie live near Missoula with 3 deaf rescue dogs, 3 high-strung Border Collies and a little Boston Terrier named “Ike.”

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!

Eclipsed by Elvis Costello in the late 1970s and relegated to the cut-out bins by the late 1980s, Graham Parker probably ranks as one of the most overlooked and unappreciated singer-songwriters of his era. It’s impossible to review Parker’s career without repeatedly stumbling over the same adjectives: passionate, bitter and sarcastic are common; or the same clichés: “angry young man”, “Mercury poisoning”, or even “own worst enemy.” Apparently radio only had room for one quirky, bespectacled, British pub rocker (Costello) and Parker probably was correct in his summation regarding his label, “their promotion’s so lame, they could never take it to the real ball game.” There were seemingly many factors conspiring to keep Graham Parker stuck in his cult status. Continue reading »

It’s unsettling to think what might have become (or not become) of rock music if not for one man in Memphis and his modest recording studio. The talent that Sam Phillips welcomed into his Memphis Recording Service in the early 1950s was legendary and included B.B. King, Rufus Thomas, Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Parker and Ike Turner. These early blues and R&B artists gave Phillips and his fledgling label, Sun Records, some minor notoriety that would soon attract rock, country and rockabilly upstarts such as Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and of course, Elvis Presley. His willingness to produce raw-sounding records featuring reverb and distortion caused some to say Phillips didn’t know what he was doing, and others to praise his unique genius. Perhaps Phillips’ biggest stroke of genius was seeing the potential in the young Presley boy that just kept hanging around. Pairing Elvis with guitarist Scotty Moore and Bill Black on bass in the summer of 1954 initially led to a lackluster session until, after a break, Elvis began goofing around with Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right.” Instantly Phillips knew he was hearing something special – the white artist with the “negro” sound that he had been seeking. Continue reading »

Oct 172011

YouTube is filled with amateur cover “artists.” Most stink. On The ‘Tube extracts  the exceptions.

Milwaukee’s Margaret Stutt was well known in Brewtown’s art circles. Deftly dragging her accordion behind her like a frequent flyer through airport security, Stutt seemed to pop up at every artistic benefit in the city. Margaret, better known as Pezzettino, was also just as likely to spontaneously appear around town, shooting a video using some iconic Milwaukee location as a backdrop. Now relocated to Brooklyn, Pezzettino has three albums of original material including last year’s Lub Dub, a collaboration with producer/engineer LMNtlyst. Continue reading »

Sep 272011

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!

Few would argue that Harry Nilsson was one of the best and most unique American singer-songwriters of his time. Nilsson crafted complex multi-layered vocal pop for his amazing voice, which had a range of three and one-half octaves. He wrote beautiful, personal, and emotional songs that earned him the respect of his peers, critical acclaim, and occasional commercial success – though his two Grammy awards were not for originals. Yet Nilsson is a largely forgotten cult figure; a legacy he himself insured with his stubbornness, his insecurities, numerous bad career decisions and an appetite for destruction more commonly associated with contemporaries like Keith Richards, John Bonham and Keith Moon. (Ironically, both Moon and Mama Cass would die in Nilsson’s London apartment, which he allowed his friends to use when he was in the States.) Continue reading »

Had he lived, tomorrow would have been Buddy Holly’s 75th birthday, and today marks the release date of the second full-length Buddy Holly tribute of the past ten weeks. Due to the proximity of the release dates, the two collections are destined to be linked together and compared. On the surface, similarities abound: both Rave On Buddy Holly (review here) and Listen To Me: Buddy Holly feature big name stars and a bevy of classic rockers. Rave On boasts Paul McCartney, Nick Lowe, Patti Smith and Lou Reed while Listen To Me offers Stevie Nicks, Brian Wilson, Jackson Browne and Ringo Starr. The differences lie in the roster of contemporary contributors. Where Rave On is stocked with indie cred, Listen To Me relies on a list of chart-topping pop stars.

Less innovative than its slightly older cousin, Listen To Me: Buddy Holly has a few oddities that tend to tarnish an otherwise pretty solid compilation. First on the list of disappointments is Linda Ronstadt’s 1976 Hasten Down The Wind version of “That’ll Be The Day.” Really? Does a 35 year-old song get a pass on an otherwise “new” collection simply because the legendary Peter Asher produced both projects? Did they think we wouldn’t notice? Continue reading »

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy – born 44 years ago today in Belleville, Illinois. Through his work with Uncle Tupelo and Wilco, Tweedy has laid claim to being this generation’s Woody Guthrie or Neil Young. Wait a minute… Jeff Tweedy is perhaps this generation’s Alex Chilton or John Lennon or even Hank Williams, Sr. You can see the problem in trying to describe a chameleon like Tweedy. It’s why Wilco Nation anxiously awaits each new release; never knowing where Tweedy and the band will take them, but always thoroughly enjoying the journey. That journey continues in a month when Wilco releases The Whole Love, their eighth studio album. Continue reading »

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Echo & the Bunnymen formed in Liverpool in the late ‘70s.  Vocalist Ian McCulloch had been in a band with Julian Cope and Pete Wylie.  McCulloch recruited underrated guitarist Will Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson; and yes, there was a drum machine involved prior to Pete de Freitas joining in 1980.  Was this the “Echo” in Echo & the Bunnymen?  That depends on who you ask. The band’s best quality output came over their first seven years and five albums.  An output that brought critical acclaim and UK success, but little more than a cult following in the States. Continue reading »

Jul 132011

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.

If you saw Daniel McLain in a bar in 1983 you might have assumed that he was president of his local Hells Angels chapter. Actually Daniel, better known as Country Dick Montana, was a much less threatening former record store owner, former high school class president and former president of the Kinks Preservation Society fan club. Back in 1983, while scouring San Diego looking to put together a new band – or “rolling musical pleasure machine” as he called it – Country Dick recruited Jerry Raney, Buddy Blue and Rolle Love. These guys became the Beat Farmers, a band with three singers and two lead guitarists, whose most enduring (and endearing) song was a 90-second ditty about a dead dog featuring gargling and a kazoo. Country Dick played drums, but also occasionally fronted the band. Imagine a cross between Johnny Cash and Sam Kinison and you have Country Dick’s stage presence. Country Dick called his fans maggots, and tossed beer on them. They loved it…and after the show, Dick would often stay and chat with the Beat Farmer faithful; he really wasn’t so intimidating after all. You could make the case that the Beat Farmers were the best bar band ever. Continue reading »

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