Jun 122020
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

Beginning around 1990, a major mountain range began forming along the fault lines where country music, punk-influenced rock, and traditional folk music meet. Call it the Alt-Country range, or the Roots/Americana mountains, or whatever you like. The range includes material from then-new artists like Uncle Tupelo (and its offshoots, Son Volt and Wilco), and the work of not-so-new figures, Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt among them. Bedrock that was long covered over–songs by the Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers, say–got brought to the surface again and mixed in with the new. The formative period for Alt-Country ended by 2000 or so, with the final uplift being the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou, a project that help usher southern-style folk music beyond certain enclaves in Austin and Nashville.

Looking back, most would agree that among the most prominent peaks in the entire mountain range is Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. The album is over 20 years old, but time doesn’t wear it down, and in the rear view mirror it still looms large. Let’s pull over to admire the achievement.
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May 222020
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Fleetwood Mac album covers

It seems that we like the Mac over here at Cover Me. This is our third Full Album Fleetwood Mac feature, following on from Rumours and Tusk, the other exemplars of this most acclaimed iteration of the ever-evolving band. Sure, loads of us (myself included) adore the 60’s into 70’s UK white-boy blues band, but c’mon–only a real curmudgeon would deny the greater pulling power of the Buckingham-Nicks Mark 1 years. Not that this pair, accomplished songwriters both, were the only pull; Christine McVie continued to add value with a constant drip feed of classics. And, looking back, given the “other” music breaking through in 1975, the so-called year zero of punk rock, how was it that this epitome of smooth found (and still finds) such purchase?

The story is well-trodden. A blues band down on their luck, reeling from the loss of all their most potent forces, and of several replacements of lesser merit, come close to throwing in the towel. Mick Fleetwood, drumming mainstay from the start, chances on Lindsey Buckingham, offers him a gig with the band. Buckingham said yes, but only if his girlfriend could also be recruited. What could go wrong? Well, the relationship of Buckingham and Nicks, as well as that of John and Christine McVie, were both going rapidly south. Fleetwood was also divorcing his wife (not a band member). Luckily the rot didn’t really hit until 1975’s eponymous LP had been made and released to no small success. Mind you, the mayhem didn’t stop the follow-up, Rumours, from doing better still, and the various co-sanguinous shenanigans thereafter making Tusk the critics’ favorite. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. This piece is to celebrate that brief window, possibly, of relationship harmony, maritally and otherwise. Possibly.
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May 082020
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Royal Scam covers

Music Journalist: “What is the song ‘The Royal Scam’ about?”
Walter Becker: “About six-and-a-half minutes.”

Let’s get it out of the way: we have no answer to the question, What is ‘the royal scam,’ anyway? The music industry? The American dream? The pretense that Steely Dan was an actual band and not just two cynics named Walter Becker and Donald Fagen?

Only one thing is clear: Steely Dan’s The Royal Scam is a great album that lives in the shadow of the even greater album that followed it: AjaAja is certainly the band’s commercial peak, and it’s probably their artistic peak too. It seems to get all the attention. Therefore, we are bringing The Royal Scam out of the shadows today, and reviewing a masterful and varied set of songs as filtered through other artists’ imaginations. We’ll hear the glory, but through new ears.
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Apr 202020
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Bring the Family

By the mid- to late-’80s, John Hiatt was seen pretty much as a lost cause. True, a pretty decent songwriter, having penned a hit or two for others, Three Dog Night and Roseanne Cash both being welcome recipients of his muse. But himself? Deemed just another drunk by the majors, with Arista having been the last to throw in his beer-stained towel; sobriety seemed to have beckoned too late for that final chance.

Luckily for him, the then-tiny UK label Demon, run by the same mavericks behind Stiff and Radar, had a little faith. Indeed, Hiatt himself later said they were willing to put out the farts in his bathtub, so enamored were they of his talent. And they had some bucks to back that up, if not many. Enough for about four days in the studio, if they could keep other costs to a minimum.

Hiatt rustled up his old buddy Nick Lowe, who was married to Roseanne Cash Carlene Carter at the time. Lowe agreed to waive any fee and to share a motel room with Hiatt. Ry Cooder, whose 1980 album Borderline had included two Hiatt numbers (plus their author on guitar and backing vocals), was also up for it, as was journeyman session drummer supreme Jim Keltner. Remarkably, they were all free those four days, even if the material wasn’t entirely ready. Allegedly Cooder had to be persuaded to hang on a few hours at the end, whilst Hiatt finished writing a necessary tenth track. Another tale is how the impressively lairy rhythm of “Memphis in the Meantime” comes from Lowe plugging in and playing, less than an hour after arrival, for a song he had neither heard nor rehearsed.

But the gamble paid off, and 1987’s Bring the Family became Hiatt’s breakthrough, even if the same line-up were not available to promote it on the road. That came a full five years later, with, now, the band collectively entitled Little Village, coming together for an eponymous album, a tour, and no little rancor. Lowe later stated the problem was of too much time and too much money in the studio. But that’s another story.
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Mar 292020
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

billie eilish covers

Billie Eilish’s debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? came out just one year ago today. It seems like much longer. Her success now spans from Gen Z to boomers; she’s become omnipresent on every channel of the internet while also scoring the old-music-biz coup of sweeping the four top categories of the Grammys – the first person to do so since Christopher Cross in 1981. Continue reading »

Mar 272020
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

brothers in arms covers

Brothers in Arms is the sixth-best-selling album of the entire 1980s. I wonder if that might surprise some people. It feels like Dire Straits have been, not forgotten certainly, but not remembered at anywhere near the level of their success. They weren’t just famous. They were massively, enormously, stadium-filling-pop-superstar famous.

On the ’80s album-sales charts, Brothers in Arms sits just behind Born in the U.S.A. and just ahead of Appetite for Destruction. It feels like both albums loom far above Brothers in Arms in the current consciousness. In one (admittedly imperfect) measurement of popularity among young people, Spotify streams, three separate songs from Appetite dwarf anything from Brothers in Arms. And in terms of covers, I can attest that songs from Born in the U.S.A. get covered far more often by younger artists – the deep cuts as well as the hits.

But Brothers in Arms deserved to be in those albums’ company then and it deserves to remain there now. So today we pay tribute through tributes, covers of the huge hits and the lesser-known tracks that, despite selling a gajillion copies, seem to have slipped between the cracks. Enjoy. Continue reading »