Jake Callaway

Jul 182017
 
anthony damato covers

If someone told you to sing “This Land Is Your Land,” how much could you do off the top of your head? Redwood forest, check. Ribbon of highway probably too. But do you know this verse?

Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
That side was made for you and me.

That rarely-sung verse, from Woody Guthrie’s original lyrics, helped inspire Anthony D’Amato’s shimmering new cover (which features background vocals from Josh Ritter). Though written in 1940, that line about walls dividing people holds increasing resonance today. And it’s a subject D’Amato cares a lot about; his last album included the Trump-inspired original “If You’re Gonna Build A Wall” and both tracks appear on new charity EP Won’t You Be My Neighbor. Continue reading »

May 102017
 
offa rex

At the first show of their recent three-night run in NYC, The Decemberists brought out singer Olivia Chaney for a mysterious song they didn’t really explain. Featuring Chaney leading on harpsichord and vocals, it was weird and proggy in a similar way to the Decemberists’ own album Hazards of Love. Now, a few weeks later, we know what the performance was teasing: an upcoming Decemberists/Chaney covers album under the band name Offa Rex. Continue reading »

May 042017
 
levy and the oaks

Any band from Asbury Park has an obvious choice to make. You can run like hell from any Boss comparisons or embrace your city’s favorite son. Levy & the Oaks has chosen the latter, healthier option on a new cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” premiering below.

“I’m on Fire” is one of Springsteen’s most-covered songs, and the first few guitar strums might make you expect another paint-by-numbers Americana version. But the moment Lou Panico starts singing, it becomes something special. He may hail from Springsteen’s stomping grounds, but he is not too beholden to tradition, changing the song’s melody and rhythm to make it his own. 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 »

Feb 022017
 
amanda shires cover

Amanda Shires is best known as a violinist (also for being Jason Isbell’s wife and sometimes bandmate), but on her tender new cover of Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man” she ditches her signature instrument for the ukulele. At least it has the same number of strings!

She proves equally adept at the new instrument, plucking it quietly to accompany her delicate singing. She gets bonus points too for not forcing a switch to “I’m Your Woman,” the sort of dumb lyric change too many singers do when covering a song by someone of the opposite gender. Continue reading »

Jan 182017
 
Justin Vernon

Last year, in preparing to release his experimental new album 22, A Million, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon held a one-time-only festival/art performance in Berlin. He brought a number of his favorite musicians to hang out and collaborate, performing new music in the round. The festival just posted videos of many of the performances, including a wonderful “Folk Circle” session that features Vernon trading folk songs with Damien Rice, Sam Amidon, Erlend Øye, O, and Ragnar Kjartansson.

Norwegian composer (and half of Kings of Convenience, who released our favorite cover of 2009) Erlend Øye covers The Moore Brothers’ 2004 song “New For You,” followed by our buddy Sam Amidon leading the crowd in a singalong of Appalachian folk song “Johanna The Row​-​di.” A French singer who goes simply by O sings a traditional French song, Damien Rice breaks the covers theme by playing his own “The Professor & La Fille Danse,” and then we get to the piece de resistance. Vernon plays a song from the man he calls “my favorite songwriter,” John Prine. Continue reading »