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!

When you consider their longevity, the sheer number and variety of their live performances, and influences as diverse as bluegrass, country, soul, rock, psychedelia, blues, and jazz, it is likely that the Grateful Dead may have recorded and/or performed more covers than any other band that is best known for its original songs. (There’s probably a wedding band out there that has a bigger songbook, but that’s not really the point.) Grateful Dead fans have been trading and cataloging their favorite band’s performances since long before the idea of digital music and the Internet even existed, and now there are numerous databases available online — one of which shows 343 separate covers performed by the band (and solo projects and offshoots), including soundchecks and performances with guests.

Therefore, it is somewhat surprising that Cover Me has never turned its lovelight directly on the Grateful Dead. We have written numerous times about covers of Dead songs, but a quick review of the archives indicates that only three covers by the band have been featured—Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” and Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee” and “Mama Tried.” So, that leaves us a mere 340 to choose from today. To make this project (inspired in part by Phil Lesh’s 75th birthday this Sunday and by the recent announcement of the band’s 50th anniversary shows in Chicago this summer) somewhat less insane, we will limit ourselves only to recordings or performances by the Grateful Dead, proper — no solo projects or anything from after the death of Jerry Garcia.
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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!

The sun must have been approximately eight inches from my forehead as I wound my way through a crush of warm bodies – all of them panting and glistening in the fierce Texas heat. Perspiration beaded and trickled down the damp necks of an expectant crowd; condensation beaded and trickled down their cans of Lagunitas.

With the first loud and clear ring of an electric guitar, a roar arose from the crowd, and Paolo Nutini strutted onto stage at Austin City Limits – shirt unbuttoned like a golden god of 70s rock, tight pants that might have been painted onto his lithe frame, and a tousled mane that exemplified the definition of “sex hair.”

And then, the man proceeded to take us to church.
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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!

He sounds like a slowed-down Jeff Buckley on female hormones. – Listener quoted in The Times of London
Antony Hegarty has a voice that sounds like it belongs to a Dostoyevsky character. Every song rides on an undercurrent of mournful reflection. – NPR
[W]hat a discovery: a voice like St Theresa’s arrow to pierce the soul. – The Australian
Every emotion in the planet is in that gorgeous voice. – Diamanda Galas
When I heard him, I knew that I was in the presence of an angel. – Lou Reed

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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!

The rock and roll bands that slammed on the brakes and took the turnoff at country music are numerous. Gram Parsons got high with Keith Richards and “Dead Flowers” was born. The number of times Elvis Costello has cheated on rock and roll with country’s graces is too numerous to count. Jack White turned the knobs for Loretta Lynn. And so on.

The postpunk and indiepop bands that have segued into a Ryman act are no less numerous. X gave birth to the Knitters. The New Pornographers cut loose chanteuse Neko Case. And the Archers of Loaf’s Eric Bachmann disbanded all notions of his indie rock band and spread out into numerous directions, including the roots rock band Crooked Fingers.
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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!

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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