Mar 232018

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

field report covers

Field Report frontman Christopher Porterfield got his musical start collaborating with fellow Wisconsinite Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) in the band DeYarmond Edison. Wikipedia claims they broke up in 2006, but if that band name sounds familiar more recently, it’s because they contributed one of the absolute best covers of 2016’s 59-track Day of the Dead Grateful Dead tribute, backing Bruce Hornsby on “Black Muddy River.” Hornsby’s vocals are amazing, of course, but listen to how Porterfield, Vernon, and co. give him such a lush bed to sing over for an eight-minute cover that feels as relaxed and winding as its name sake.

Suffice to say, Porterfield knows his way around a good cover song. And he knows his way around songwriting too. We first came across the band in 2014 with “Home (Leave the Lights On),” one of the absolute best songs of the entire year. And today Field Report releases their third album, Summertime Songs. The tone is darker than Beach Boys-esq title might imply, exploring Porterfield’s anxiety before the birth of his first child. That said, like the best of Bruce Springsteen (whom the album sometimes channels), these are anxious songs that would still sound great driving down the highway with the top down. Watch the band play single “Never Look Back” on CBS This Morning last month: Continue reading »

Mar 212018

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

erika wennerstrom covers

For the third entry in our new “Pick Five” series – following Frank Turner and Emel Mathlouthi – we checked in with singer and songwriter Erika Wennerstrom. She is preparing to release her solo debut this Friday as her band Heartless Bastards takes an extended hiatus. Titled Sweet Unknown (where Wennerstrom is venturing after 15 years fronting the band), the album spotlights, as Consequence of Sound puts it, “the warm and bluesy instrument fans of Heartless Bastards have grown to love.” That instrument is, as anyone who has heard a single Heartless Bastards will know, her powerhouse vocals.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that the five covers she selected for us all feature powerful vocal performances. Powerful, though, in very different ways, ranging from Aretha Franklin’s gospel belt to Johnny Cash’s fragile whisper. Let’s turn it over to her: Continue reading »

Mar 152018

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

Rich Girl covers

In 1960, Victor and Everett Walker opened the first Walker Bros. Original Pancake House in Wilmette, IL. By the end of the decade, Victor retired, having sold his restaurant and the 15 KFC franchises he owned. At age 50, he was fixed for life – as were his three sons. One of them, Victor Jr., dated a woman named Sara Allen for a while in college. She broke up with Victor Jr. (but remained friends) and began going out with Daryl Hall, who would write “Sara Smile” about her and write many other songs with her.

Hall knew the young Vic and later referred to him as a “burnout.” “He came to our apartment, and he was acting sort of strange,” Hall said in an interview. “I said, ‘This guy is out of his mind, but he doesn’t have to worry about it because his father’s gonna bail him out of any problems he gets in.'” That thought led to a song. “But you can’t write, ‘You’re a rich boy’ in a song,” Hall said, “so I changed it to a girl.” Continue reading »

Mar 092018

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

It is somewhat ironic that most people know only one song by The Only Ones— “Another Girl, Another Planet.”  Originally released in 1978, it received minimal airplay and attention, but its reputation has grown exponentially over the years.  The Allmusic review of the song asserts that it is “arguably, the greatest rock single ever recorded.”  Of course, people will “argue” about anything, and choosing “Another Girl” as the greatest rock single ever is a bit of a reach, but you have to give the reviewer his due for taking a stand.  It is a great song, and it is fitting that it ultimately received the acclaim that it deserved.

The Only Ones formed in London in 1976, led by distinctively anguished vocalist and songwriter Peter Perrett joined by guitarist/keyboard player John Perry, Alan Mair on bass, and drummer Mike Kellie.  Featuring strong songwriting by Perrett and surprisingly (for punks of the era) competent playing by the band, they self-released a single, “Lovers of Today.” It sold well enough that a bidding war broke out among major labels looking for the next big thing. Continue reading »

Mar 082018

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

dizzy tommy roe

Today we are inaugurating a new occasional series called “Covering the Hits.” It was inspired by Stereogum’s great new series “Number Ones” reviewing every single #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in order. Than in turn was inspired by the “Popular” series in the UK. The occasion for all this number-one nostalgia? 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the Hot 100’s advent.

Needless to say, though, our focus is a little different: covers. We’re not writing about the hits themselves; we’re writing about subsequent covers of those hits. Some have been covered hundreds of times; others only a few (surprising but true for many songs that topped the charts). Whatever the case, we’re going to investigate and tell each hit’s cover story, long or short.

Unlike those other series, we’re not going in order. There are over 1,000 #1 hits since 1958. If we went chronologically, we’d never even make it to the Beatles. Instead, we’re using a random-number generator (the digital equivalent of drawing from a hat). And, for the first one, our generator-hat delivered: Tommy Roe’s 1969 hit “Dizzy.” Continue reading »

Mar 062018

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

frank turner cover songs

We launched our new series “Pick Five” last week with Emel Mathlouthi, and today the great singer-songwriter Frank Turner tells us about his five favorite cover songs.

Dubbed “the people’s prince of punk poetry,” Turner has broadened his sound on upcoming seventh studio album Be More Kind (out May 4th), the follow-up to his acclaimed 2015 release Positive Songs For Negative People. He told NME that he incorporated sounds fans might not associate with the guitar-basher, like keyboard synths and sampled loops. For a taste of this lusher production, listen to the latest single:

Such eclectic influences can also be seen in the five covers he picked for us. He mixes in the guitar-strummers and punk-blasters fans might expect (Johnny Cash and NOFX, respectively) with artists like Joe Cocker and Tori Amos. He also illustrates the depth of his musical knowledge; as he notes, few people even realize the Blondie song he picks is a cover. So let’s turn it over to him. Continue reading »