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!

Matthew Sweet’s career is a textbook example of what happens if you are exceedingly good at something that is not considered to be cool. In this case, that thing is the musical genre of “power pop.” Sweet is almost universally considered to be a master of the genre (usually defined as being a cross between hard rock and pop, with serious Beatles influences), and his best album, 1991′s Girlfriend, is generally considered to be a masterpiece, even by people who generally look down their noses at “power pop.”

As a result, Sweet is a cult hero to some critics and fans who appreciate the tight, hook-filled yet intelligent songwriting that typifies the genre, while remaining unknown to the masses who may – may - have heard one of the two or three Sweet songs that occasionally sneak into a radio or streaming playlist. Of course, the music geeks who write for Cover Me are Sweet fans; we’ve featured his cover work repeatedly, even giving him a birthday tribute featuring covers of his songs by other artists. But never before has he received the sort of career-affirming fawning adulation that can only be found in an “In the Spotlight” feature.
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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!

There is very little that can be considered “new” in the world of popular music — everything builds on something that came before, and influences get combined in different ways. So the idea that you can declare the inventor of a musical genre is ridiculous. Uncle Tupelo didn’t invent alt-country, a mix of country, rock and punk (check out, say, Jason and the Scorchers, the Long Ryders, Rank and File, X, or the Blasters, for example, for proof that these strains were already well mixed when Uncle Tupelo emerged). But it cannot be denied that Uncle Tupelo’s debut album No Depression, which gave its name to the influential message board and magazine that spearheaded the movement, helped to kickstart the genre’s popularity and became one of its cornerstones.

And it all started with a bunch of high school kids.
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May 062014

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!

There’s something extraordinarily special about NRBQ. Here’s a band that has stepped on stage a countless number of times and never involved a set-list in the process. The line-up has changed a few times over, but they’ve reliably been a band to see live. The freewheeling approach drew from many styles, all played with aplomb and a wicked sense of humor.

Founded in 1967, the name is short for New Rhythm and Blues Quartet (except when it’s Quintet). They’ve played for the Simpsons, Captain Lou Albano, and Sun Ra. No other band can say this (or would probably even want to). NRBQ is a band that many fans feel never got the recognition they deserved. But that’s what any good fan would say, and having a recording career that nets you so many hardcore fans (including Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and Elvis Costello, to name a few), I think they’re very appreciative of the love they’ve gotten. And it shows in their performances.
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Apr 252014

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!

While too few outside of the metal community are familiar with Clutch, they are not struggling to make an impact. With live shows that are the stuff of legends, Clutch has been reliably rocking audiences for the past two decades. Rock, blues, funk, punk – it all fuses together, making for a band that is loved and vehemently defended as “more than just metal.”
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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!

Imagine, if you will, a place where Elvis is still the King. Not the slim, young, rockabilly Elvis, shaking hips and pouting lips, but a rotund, sweaty, Vegas Elvis, one who is adorned in sequins, karate-kicking and crab-clawing his way through an entire set of Led Zeppelin songs. And just for shins and grits, imagine those oh-so-familiar classic rock tunes tuned to a reggae beat and backed by a band that’s a cross between Bad Brains and Bob Marley.  Amazingly, what can be imagined can – and has – become reality. Welcome to the world of Dread Zeppelin.
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Apr 042014

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!

Rock history is full of bands who created something truly special, with inherent value, that for whatever reason never got their due in the music marketplace. The dB’s (that stands for decibels, don’t you know) could be a case study in how to make great music and influence other musicians, but miss out on commercial success. Passed over by labels hunting for the next Knack, the band, led by guitarists Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple, signed with British label Albion Records at the very beginning of the ’80s, which meant that both their stellar debut and its follow up weren’t officially released in America for years.  The band only signed with an American label, Bearsville, after founder Stamey left to forge a solo career. When they submitted a video  to MTV for their suicide-themed song “Amplifier,” they were rejected.
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Mar 142014

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!

In the early ’70s, two sets of brothers and their friends, art students at Kent State University, developed a theory. It began as a kind of joke based on a religious pamphlet that alluded to the D-evolution of the unenlightened man. As artists tend to do, they created some performance art and music around this theme for their own amusement. Then the terrible tragedy of the Kent State shootings happened. Four of their classmates were killed by those who were supposed to be protecting them. Suddenly the de-evolution of man and of society in general seemed more than just a joke. The band Devo was born.
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Mar 072014

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!

Dave Edmunds plays rock and roll in a particular style. It’s the version of rock and roll that existed in the late ’50s and early ’60s. And he’s been very true to it. But don’t be too quick to label him “retro” – he just continues to mine a vein of rock and roll that most musicians abandoned throughout the last third of the century. Those few others who have stuck with that early rock and roll blueprint (Brinsley Schwarz, Flamin’ Groovies, Ducks Deluxe) have probably worked with Edmunds. His sound is consistent, and being a good singer, guitarist and producer, that’s a fine thing to be. But he doesn’t discriminate when picking covers – he’s as likely to do something classic as he is something contemporary.

When looking at a career that is full of covers, it can be tough to figure out which ones best represent the artist. Many of Edmunds’ early singles are very precise covers of classic R&B. Maybe too precise. But once he shed a bit of his perfectionist tendencies (and started working with Nick Lowe), he provided the covers room to breathe and made many an old song into something fresh.
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