Patrick Robbins

Patrick Robbins lives in Maine, where he moves through life with the secure knowledge that, as Penn Jillette said, "In all of art, it's the singer, not the song," On Wednesdays he goes shopping, and has buttered scones for tea. He is the author of the novel To Make Others Happy.

Oct 142016
 

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

otis redding

Otis Redding built one of his greatest songs out of almost nothing. Guitarist and co-writer Steve Cropper explains: “‘I Can’t Turn You Loose’ was just a riff I’d used on a few songs with the MG’s. Otis worked it up with the horns in about 10 minutes as the last thing we did one night in the studio. Just a riff and one verse that he sings over and over. That’s all it is.”

Continue reading »

Oct 072016
 

essentials Scott Bradlee deserves a victory lap. For five years as the founder and leader of Postmodern Jukebox, he’s taken the hits of today and given them the vintage sounds of yesteryear, with the assistance of many very talented friends. His live-in-the-living-room rearrangements have earned him more than half a billion views on YouTube, all without major label support or corporate sponsorship. You would think that The Essentials, a collection of greatest hits, would be an ideal capper to this remarkable achievement.

But there’s still the sense that Bradlee has something to prove – he’s looking to place this album high on the Billboard charts as he takes PMJ on its North American tour this month. “No more talk of Postmodern Jukebox as a ‘YouTube act,’ or ‘online viral sensation,'” he says. “This is real, we’re here to stay, and we’re ready to change the music industry.”
Continue reading »

Sep 232016
 

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.

alexvissia

From the prairie town of Stony Plain, just outside of Edmonton, Alex Vissia found stardom in Canada performing with her two younger sisters, in venues up to and including the Olympics. After graduating from college, she turned solo; since then, she’s released two records and is working on her third, writing songs described as “grown from folksy prairie roots, distilled until clear, and carefully Rock-filtered to let just the right amount of dirt back in.”
Continue reading »

Sep 162016
 

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

Marc-Bolan

Marc Bolan died in a car crash 39 years ago today, just short of his thirtieth birthday. Tragic as this was, it was a perfect cap to the legend of the former Marc Feld, a man determined to be a near-myth of a rock star; live-fast-die-young had to be the closing number. But as other would-be legends (hi, Jobriath!) might tell you, an image won’t last without talent to keep it up, and Bolan’s talent for writing simple, catchy glamthems has kept him in the front of public consciousness, even for the ever-growing segment of the public that was born after he moved on.
Continue reading »

Sep 092016
 

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.

Sting was drunk, staggering around his hotel room in Munich, singing “Walking ’round the room.” The following morning, a more sober Sting remembered what he’d done and developed that alcohol-induced ditty into a full song. “But ‘Walking Round the Room’ was a stupid title,” he said later, “so I thought of something even more stupid.” That’s how “Walking on the Moon” got its start, and over a third of a century later it’s still going strong.

Continue reading »

Sep 022016
 

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.

Dan Reeder

The first Dan Reeder song I heard was his meditation on death, “Maybe,” featured on an Oh Boy Records CD sampler. Oh Boy is an indie label founded by John Prine, who signed Reeder after hearing his demo cassette. His first album, Dan Reeder, was as one-man-show and homemade as you can get – he wrote it, played it, recorded and engineered it, did the artwork, did all the harmonies, and even made his own instruments. The songs are brief, thoughtful, humorous, and direct – profanity is sprinkled throughout in a way that somehow manages to be organic and not crude. It was the (NSFW) “Work Song” that made me a fan for life; it’s a song with one line repeated over and over, to perfection and beyond. As NPR said, “you’ll want to play it because it’ll ring true inside you, not because it’s gratuitously vulgar.”

Continue reading »