Sep 092019
 

Valve Bone WoeThe temptation to dismiss Chrissie Hynde’s new album Valve Bone Woe as aging rockstar populist folly might be tempting. But I would beseech you not to, at least not yet, no matter how the rocky (rockers?) road to hell may be littered with many a late career jazz diversion of dubious content, however lucrative. (As in, please don’t sing it again, Rod.) This is more in the territory of a respectful nod to another genre, rather than any bandwagoneering, and is perhaps a brave choice for Hynde, if certainly unexpected. Plus, this album comes at a time when her day job is far from faltering, the Pretenders currently riding a prolonged late summer of renewed acclaim. So what has she got to prove?
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Aug 142019
 

The Bird and The BeeNine years after The Bird and the Bee’s first cover album, Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates, Volume 2 has arrived, and let me tell you, it is worth the wait. The duo had me when they released “Ain’t Talking ’bout Love” as a single. (If you haven’t seen the live version with Dave Grohl on drums, stop everything and watch it here.) With “Ain’t Talking ’bout Love” released ahead of the album, along with “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher,” I was worried that we had already heard the juiciest covers from the album, but the rest of the songs do not disappoint.

Why would the jazz-based electro-pop duo choose Van Halen for their latest tribute? Well, they already made a shout-out to David Lee Roth in their song “Diamond Dave,” from their 2009 album Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future album. They bring it back here, covering their own song to round out their tribute album. Plus, it helps that The Bird and the Bee, of Los Angeles, are practically neighbors of Van Halen, originally from Pasadena.

Since the cover-ers and the cover-ees come from very different musical genres, the pairing is a compelling one. Replacing Van Halen’s heavy electric guitar with a mixture of synths and more traditional piano, and changing the original vocal style from gravelly rock, to a smoother and sultry jazz vibe, The Bird and the Bee create another instant classic tribute album.

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Aug 112019
 

Karine Polwart is a not a folk singer. Yes, she performs, arguably, in the folk tradition, but by and large, she sings her own material, covering weighty topics such as sex trafficking and depression, somehow contriving an upbeat mood to these often gloomy subjects. Fiercely intelligent, she is fit to stand alongside other Scottish songwriters, such as Dick Gaughan and Michael Marra. Apart from her own material, it has been from the canon of trad.arr. that she has drawn most inspiration, as well as a hefty number of the songs of Rabbie Burns. So I would say that Polwart’s new album Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook has come as a bit of a surprise to most. And it is the modern Scottish songbook she applies herself to, not broadsheets and bothy ballads. Indeed, apart from John Martyn’s 1973 song “Don’t Want to Know,” the earliest song on the album, Songbook draws nothing from any conspicuously folkie background. The catholic selection ranges through the Waterboys and the Blue Nile to current electro-poppers Chvrches and the eccentric oddball poet Ivor Cutler. No Rod Stewart, some may be pleased to recognize.
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Jun 242019
 

Kirsten Agresta Copely is a harpist with a storied background. She has played harp since she was five and had her first solo tour at fourteen. Over the course of her career she has performed all over the world and shared the stage and recording studio with a variety of stars such as Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, and Evanescence. She has even played alongside Beyoncé at a state dinner for Barack Obama.

At the end of last month, Copely released her first cover album. You may think an album of harp covers is a bit niche for everyday listening, but if you are looking for a cover album with class for your next dinner party, look no further. There is something for everyone on Copely’s new album with selections that span decades, from Fleetwood Mac to Rhianna.
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Feb 182019
 

Varshons 2What a strange and contrary man Evan Dando seems to be. Liked and lauded beyond any reasonable appraisal of the breadth of his output, nonetheless he seems a decent enough dude as to get away with it. Yes, he has written some great material, he has an agreeable voice and an extensive taste in cover versions. He’s also written a lot of filler and chosen strange songs to interpret. All in that agreeable voice, a slightly bruised tenor. Moreover, there is the dichotomy between his live persona and his studio self. His later records suggest an acoustic troubadour, plugging in to widen his listeners palate, yet live he turns it all up to 11, chucking everything at the audience at once, good, bad and indifferent, hoping enough sticks, appearing either not really to care or to notice.
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Jan 252019
 

As anyone who checked Twitter yesterday is well aware, Weezer shocked the internet with a surprise covers album, dubbed the Teal Album for its absurd yacht-rock cover. The album precedes the band’s long-promised Black Album, set to release March 1st.

Weezer spent 2018 stoking the social media flames with their famous covers bout with Toto, and I think we all just expected “Africa” to be the end of it. But Weezer clearly saw an opportunity to generate some buzz for their new album and upcoming tour with The Pixies. Twitter flames aside, how do the covers on the album actually stack up? Let’s take a look at The Good, The Bad, and The (Really) Ugly. Continue reading »