Jay Honstetter

Jay Honstetter is a musician, freelance writer, and amateur stop motion artist who moved to rural Pennsylvania after being priced out of NYC. He sang for a Birthday Party cover band called Sex Vampire and the Cool Machines (Nick Cave’s Birthday Party, not kid’s birthday party songs – though that would be cool too) and is learning to play the saz (baglama). He loves music, kung-fu flicks, and anything chocolate. You can follow him on twitter @jayhonstetter

Aug 132020
 

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

While “House of the Rising Sun” may conjure up the sound of Eric Burdon’s deep powerful howls over a haunting interplay of guitar and organ, The Animals did not write the hit that made them major players during the British Invasion of the ‘60s – and arguably the first band to score a “folk-rock hit,” according to music critic Dave Marsh.

The origins of “House of the Rising Sun” are a mystery and even the subject of a book called Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song by Ted Anthony. The earliest known publication of the song’s lyrics are from a 1925 column called, “Old Songs That Men Have Sung,” in Adventure magazine. The earliest recorded version – titled “Rising Sun Blues” – is from 1933 by Clarence “Tom” Ashley and Gwen Foster – Ashley had said he learned the song from his grandfather, Enoch Ashley.

Another often contested mystery is the house at the center of the song. Some believe it’s an old women’s prison on the outskirts of New Orleans (where the words “rising sun” were etched in stone above the entrance), others believe it’s an all men’s hotel in the French Quarter that burned down in 1822 at 535-537 Conti St. (there is some evidence of a hotel called Rising Sun existing at this address), and some believe it’s an old brothel. Then there are theories of it actually originating in England or France. Of course it’s possible this house never actually existed at all.

Every recorded version of the song is a cover. But to include The Animals version in a list of covers seems a little too obvious. Their version inspired Bob Dylan to go electric, ranked number 122 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll,” and received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999. The Animals have gotten their due.

Now on to five (other) good covers of “House of the Rising Sun.”
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Jul 272020
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Dolly Parton – the fourth of twelve children, a philanthropist, actor, and musician with 50+ studio albums to date – has been releasing and writing music since she was ten. On October 15th, 1973, she released the single, “Jolene,” from her upcoming album of the same name. It became her second number-one single as a solo artist on the country charts, and upon its UK release in 1976, it was a top-ten hit in the UK Singles Charts. Continue reading »

Jul 152020
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Johnny Thunders covers

When you hear a Johnny Thunders guitar riff, you know it’s Johnny Thunders. The sloppy Chuck Berry meets Dick Dale with a sprained wrist guitar solos combined with a Keith Richards meets Ray Davies rhythm – always punctuated with slides down the neck and hammer-ons – is as distinctly Thunders as is his voice – sarcastic, sweet, taunting, and offensive in one disheveled package. No other guitarist – whether it be The Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones or Guns N’ Roses’ Izzy Stradlin – could replicate his sound no matter how hard they’ve tried.
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Jul 072020
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Sky Saxon

“I don’t believe in death; there is no death,” Sky Saxon told the Austin Chronicle one week before he unexpectedly passed away. “In a higher understanding, none of us die; we leave our body. We’re going from one room to another room. Once you realize there’s no death, then you’ll live forever.”

On June 25th, 2009, when Sky Saxon traveled from one room to the next, he went arm and arm with Michael Jackson whose death was the day’s news. The King of Pop was celebrated and memorialized everywhere, while the King of Garage Rock died in obscurity. Continue reading »