Sep 242018
 

my way

Willie Nelson’s latest album My Way is billed is as a tribute to Frank Sinatra. But it’s really just another chapter in Nelson’s retelling of the Great American Songbook. It features Nelson’s signature dude ranch cabaret sound that he’s perfected over the course of the last four decades, starting with the 1978 classic Stardust.

Throughout My Way, whether he’s backed by a large orchestra or small jazz combo, Nelson has the uncanny ability to make the tracks his own. There’s his instantly recognizable voice, which still sounds impeccable. He infuses the lush arrangements with heavy amounts of harmonica. While Nelson does not break any new musical ground, listening to the record is a bit like hanging out with an old friend, or at the very least, with a familiar (red-headed) stranger.

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Sep 182018
 
tom waits bella ciao

As we saw when we did a deep dive into his live covers, Tom Waits occasionally dips into some material that seems mildly unexpected – until you hear him sing it, when it makes perfect sense. That’s certainly true on his first recording in two years, a guest vocal on former guitarist Marc Ribot’s new album. The song is a cover of “Bella Ciao,” an Italian protest song that became a 1940s anthem in the fight against Mussolini and the fascists. Timely much?

“I played Tom a bunch of the tunes and he immediately bonded with that one,” Ribot said in the press release. “Of course, he brings a certain gravitas to everything he does – my Italian friends say he sounds exactly like an old ‘partigiano’ (resistance fighter)!” Continue reading »

Sep 182018
 
dawn zombie

Music of the mid-1990’s can get stuck between “oldies” and “contemporary,” but few chosen hits from that period remain timely and relevant to life in the present tense. “Zombie” by The Cranberries is one of them.

This catchy, nod-your-head tune is a message of protest against war and violence. It’s hard to recreate the ache and irony in Dolores O’Rordian’s voice without coming off downright angry and dark, like this heavy metal style cover by Leo & Stine Moracchioli. But a Haitian Creole singer Dawn Richard (known as DAWN) delivers a light and fresh take on the song in her new cover. Continue reading »

Sep 132018
 
peter gabriel covers

Not enough artists cover Peter Gabriel songs.

Well, let me amend that. Not enough artists cover Peter Gabriel songs other than “In Your Eyes” (which could stand a break, frankly). But in the past week, the tides have begun to turn with two new, and very different, takes on Gabriel solo hits.

First up, Vampire Weekend tackled “Solsbury Hill.” As a pop singer incorporating world-music influences, Gabriel might be second only to Paul Simon on the list of obvious Vampire Weekend influences. Perhaps as a result, they delivered a terrific live version at a British festival last week, augmented by an expanded live band. Watch it below, after their own world-pop song “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” Continue reading »

Sep 042018
 

It feels good to think about Jim Croce. His short, mercurial career consisted of just three records, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, Life and Times, and the posthumously released I Got A Name, which was completed just a week before Croce’s death in a plane crash on September 20, 1973. At the time of his death, he was right up there with fellow singer-songwriters Jackson Browne and James Taylor, and his trajectory was clearly on the rise.

The original “I Got A Name” single was released the day after the plane crash and hit number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 list. The song, along with being the theme for the movie The Last American Hero, was also featured prominently in the movies Django Unchained, The Ice Storm, and Invincible. Now, Jim’s son A.J. Croce has released his cover of “I Got a Name” to honor his father.
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Aug 302018
 
olivia chaney long time gone

Olivia Chaney is a classically trained British singer/songwriter. Her profile has been rising steadily in recent years, as she released an album called The Queen of Hearts with the Decemberists in 2017 under the group name Offa Rex (we gave it four stars). This summer, she put out her second solo studio album Shelter. Alongside her many originals is a cover of “Long Time Gone,” a song first recorded by… well, that’s a bit complicated.

According to Chaney’s press release, the song was written by Frank Harford and Tex Ritter and “first recorded” by the Everly Brothers. This is incorrect. Now before you go firing off an angry email to her publicist, the whole thing appears to be a case of mistaken attribution that predates the internet.

The database Second Hand Songs claims that the Everlys were the first ones to record the song in 1958, though their own comments section disputes this. When I first saw the listing on the site, I thought something was off because the tune was on the Everlys’ album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us — billed as a covers record. Plus, I didn’t think Tex Ritter, a popular country singer in the ‘40s and ‘50s, would write a tune directly for the Everlys. When I pulled up Ritter’s “Long Time Gone” it had different lyrics and a different melody entirely. Also, some sites list Ritter’s as being from 1944, while others have it as from 1946.

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