It’s been 23 years since Sublime released their self-titled studio album. It was their breakout record, gaining tons of airplay and new fans for the band. It was also their final album, released just months after lead singer Bradley Nowell’s death. One of the hit singles was “Doin’ Time”, a song built largely on samples and influenced heavily by George Gershwin’s oft-covered “Summertime”. Although it has aged well, it’s still a song that evokes the late 1990s. And then Lana Del Rey got a hold of it.
Mark Kozelek is no stranger to finding the gourmet meal in what others might consider fast food. A prolific songwriter whose own tunes have gotten progressively less melodic and lyrics have gotten more and more literal, Kozelek has not lost his touch in turning rock songs into acoustic vignettes. Here, he takes the Huey Lewis and the News 1985 pop rock song “The Power of Love” and, with the help of singer/violinist Petra Haden, he finds the beauty at its core.
If ever there was a time to cover Weezer, now seems like one of the best since 1994 when they released their eponymous debut (aka the “Blue Album”). In January, Weezer capped off a wacky, Toto-filled 2018 with their Teal Album of cover songs. They’re certainly in the zeitgeist right now, so it seems like an excellent time to quickly slap together a tribute to one of their radio-saturating hits. Steady Holiday, however, went with a deeper cut.
A ton of great covers come out of Australian radio station Triple J’s “Like A Version” series, and we have written about a lot of them (one other just this week!). We’ve come to expect quality, and rapper Denzel Curry did not let us down with his cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade.”
The Band’s “Christmas Must Be Tonight” has always stood apart from the standard Christmas songs playing on the radio and in stores around this time of year. The song feels very loose and raw, a sharp contrast to the typical seasonal fare. It’s also completely free of sleigh bells or gimmicks, instead driven by all the same musical elements found in most of The Band’s best songs. Claiming “Christmas Must Be Tonight” as your favorite Christmas song is like claiming Die Hard as your favorite Christmas movie: yes, it’s technically Christmas-related, but really it’s just a great standalone product.
“I’ve got half a mind to leave you, but only half the heart to go.” Those words, first recorded by Ernest Tubb but written by Roger Miller, are bittersweet and funny. The song it came from, “Half a Mind,” shared those traits with many of Miller’s other songs. His songs blend the heartstring-pulling storytelling of country with a wry wit that enhances rather than distracts. Ok, maybe rhyming “purple” with “maple surple” is a little distracting, but it’s a worthwhile distraction.
On King of the Road, an upcoming new tribute album, the personnel runs the gamut from country stars like Brad Paisley to unexpected alt-rock acts like Cake. Country music icon Loretta Lynn’s cover of “Half a Mind” is one of three tracks currently available to stream from the album, which is due out August 31st. Lynn’s strong voice duels with the steel guitar here and really highlights the sadder aspect of the lyrics. At just over two minutes long it’s short and bittersweet – and a winner.
The other two songs available are Dolly Parton and Alison Krauss’s equally sad and gorgeously sung “The Last Word in Lonesome is Me” and Brad Paisley’s super goofy “Dang Me”. If the rest of the album is as strong as these early releases this is going to be a can’t miss tribute.