Don’t tell these guys rock is dead. Along with Greta Van Fleet and The Struts, L.A. rockers Rival Sons are carrying the torch, spreading the rock and roll message to the masses, one club, one arena, one stadium at a time (no exaggeration; they’ve opened for Aerosmith in arenas and Black Sabbath in stadiums). Five albums in and about to release their sixth, the band, led by Jim Morrison doppelganger Jay Buchanan, seems to be peaking at just the right moment in time.
Wrapping up a 2018 that saw him release the critically acclaimed album Tell It To The Judge and open for Spoon at Nashville’s iconic Ryman Auditorium, Austin singer-songwriter Walker Lukens recently played a concert for local radio station KUTX. Before the show, the station polled their listeners on what song Walker and The Side Arms should cover. The Huey Lewis and the News hit “I Want a New Drug” was the clear audience favorite, winning over Fiona Apple’s “Sleep to Dream,” “Cinnamon Girl,” “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” and “Crazy in Love.”
When delivered with passion and a reverence for the record being covered, a track-for-track covers album reimagining an iconic album by someone’s musical heroes can result in an intoxicating listen. Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong mined this territory on 2013’s Foreverly, an album paying tribute to the Everly Brothers’ Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. The Walkmen took the format to the next level, inhabiting the very essence of the John Lennon-produced Harry Nilsson cult classic Pussycats with Pussycats Starring The Walkmen. And now, in 2018, the Austin-based Americana group The Band of Heathens have delivered A Message from the People Revisited, a timely tribute to the Ray Charles record A Message from the People, originally released in 1972.
Rod Stewart, one of the most prolific cover song performers around, is also an underrated songwriter. While his first two solo albums after departing The Faces included several cover songs – sterling versions of Dylan’s “Only A Hobo” and Tim Hardin’s “Reason To Believe” – his superior self-penned tunes including “Gasoline Alley” from his second proper release, and the beautiful “Mandolin Wind” from Every Picture Tells a Story are the songs that really cemented his legacy.
Unless you are a fan of his band Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies back in the day, you might not know the name, Mike Farris. A Grammy winner in the Gospel category for his 2014 album Shine For All The People, Farris takes a more secular approach on his latest record, Silver & Stone. Full of soulful songs in the mold of Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ Paul Janeway, the album includes a couple of top-notch cover songs including a version of Sam Cooke’s “I’ll Be Coming Running Back To You.”
It feels good to think about Jim Croce. His short, mercurial career consisted of just three records, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, Life and Times, and the posthumously released I Got A Name, which was completed just a week before Croce’s death in a plane crash on September 20, 1973. At the time of his death, he was right up there with fellow singer-songwriters Jackson Browne and James Taylor, and his trajectory was clearly on the rise.
The original “I Got A Name” single was released the day after the plane crash and hit number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 list. The song, along with being the theme for the movie The Last American Hero, was also featured prominently in the movies Django Unchained, The Ice Storm, and Invincible. Now, Jim’s son A.J. Croce has released his cover of “I Got a Name” to honor his father.