Sean Balkwill

Sean Balkwill grew up around the world as an army brat, then spent his young adulthood enjoying the Renaissance of college music in the South. He has been rumored to eat old Trouser Press magazines just for the fiber, and wash it down with a home brewed imperial stout made from melted I.R.S. vinyl records. Sean has previously written a music column, produced a radio show, and co-hosted another. He works as an illustrator and designer in North Carolina, and enjoys its craft beer scene, beautiful weather, and outdoor music venues. Follow him on Twitter for instant enlightenment or Instagram for beer porn.

May 262017
 
chris cornell covers

We’re more than a week on since the tragic loss of Chris Cornell, and not more can be said that hasn’t already been written. A lot of musicians were crushed and many expressed their sadness on social media and in song (though it must be said, it didn’t always feel genuine as a few tried to capitalize on his popularity by name-checking him). While the media focuses on the how and why of Cornell’s passing, the fans mourn in the mosh pit and the mezzanines.

When I pitched writing this roundup, I also knew that regardless of how heartfelt these tributes would be, it would be incredibly difficult for many singers to hit Cornell’s singing range. This is not to pick on anyone in particular, nor to throw shade on their own expressions of grief and the want to express it. But even as someone who often has to defend cover songs versus the originals, I really think Chris Cornell was truly irreplaceable.

Here are my favorites of the many Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog covers that have been recorded since Cornell’s passing. Continue reading »

Feb 142017
 

Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

sean

Sean Balkwill makes his home in North Carolina. He’s been writing for Cover Me since 2013, and has also served as the site’s art director. Of all his Cover Me essays, he especially likes his pieces on Glen Hansard and the Replacements, both of which feature Sean’s artwork.

When I thought of the idea of writing about the personal connection to cover songs, I thought it would be great to also extemporize on the question, “What is a cover song?” So I’ve decided to write about a list of songs that changed the way that I looked at cover music itself, both on a personal level and on a wider trek to define what a cover song is. Here’s my thoughts…
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Oct 282016
 

alr-0039_grandeWhen Elliott Smith was alive, nobody covered his music. He covered a lot of musicians himself, but whether it was considered sacrilegious to cover his songs or there was a lack of interest, it’s hard to say. I know, because after finally getting on the Elliott bandwagon after hearing “Waltz #2” on MTV in the late ’90s, I was hooked, and searched Napster in vain for cover songs of his work. The drought of Elliott Smith covers outlasted Napster (or at least the first incarnation), but now both are reborn again.

As a cover fan AND a Smith fan, it’s often a road of sorrows. I’ve written about Elliott Smith before, of course, and that’s because there’s way more attention paid to him post-mortem, and thus more covers are recorded of his music. The drawback is that while I’m all for artists repurposing songs to their own liking, there is so much nuance in Smith’s output that many cover songs sound like the stereotypical photocopy of a photocopy: all of the emotion and heart is lost. However, that’s changed for the better over the years, and now culminates in the fantastic compilation Say Yes! A Tribute to Elliott Smith (American Laundromat Records). Continue reading »

Jun 062016
 

day of the deadWhen I was five, my brother and I were digging in the yard and we dug up some jelly beans. Being jelly beans, we ate them. As you would expect, as they weren’t really food and since they didn’t really decay, they were pretty much intact. And they were delicious. Our Mom apparently didn’t seem to think this was a very smart thing to do, so we were punished. But it  seemed oh-so-worth-it in the end.

Listening to the Red Hot Organization’s 25th release, the sprawling 5-CD Day of the Dead, I kinda feel the same way. There’s a lot more digging though, and way fewer jelly beans.
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May 292015
 

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!

elliottsmith-01

Someday you idiots will shut up and listen to him. — Lou Barlow

Elliott Smith was an outlier. He stuck out on his label, Kill Rock Stars, home of Sleater-Kinney and The Raincoats. He stuck out at the Oscars, wearing a white suit while performing “Miss Misery,” a polar bear stranded on a floating iceberg that failed to sink the Academy’s love of all things Titanic. And he stuck out in defiance to America’s ignorance of his music by continuing to do things his own way, against the advice of those who supposedly had his best interests in mind. Unfortunately, he sometimes didn’t have his own, either.
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Feb 132015
 

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.

Gorillaz, the superband partnership between Blur’s Damon Albarn and Tank Girl comic artist Jamie Hewlett, mixed up indy rock and trip-hop and became the best-known cartoon band since Jem and the Holograms. Albarn and Hewlett would keep the revolving door on Gorillaz open, working with Lou Reed, Snoop Dogg, and De la Soul, among others; Albans insists that despite rumors of a falling out with Hewlett, Gorillaz is still swinging after more than a decade. They remain best known for “Clint Eastwood,” their first single from their first album. Let’s take a look at some of the better covers of this college classic.
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