Oct 282016
 

alr-0039_grandeWhen Elliott Smith was alive, nobody covered his music. He covered a lot of musicians himself, but whether it was considered sacrilegious to cover his songs or there was a lack of interest, it’s hard to say. I know, because after finally getting on the Elliott bandwagon after hearing “Waltz #2” on MTV in the late ’90s, I was hooked, and searched Napster in vain for cover songs of his work. The drought of Elliott Smith covers outlasted Napster (or at least the first incarnation), but now both are reborn again.

As a cover fan AND a Smith fan, it’s often a road of sorrows. I’ve written about Elliott Smith before, of course, and that’s because there’s way more attention paid to him post-mortem, and thus more covers are recorded of his music. The drawback is that while I’m all for artists repurposing songs to their own liking, there is so much nuance in Smith’s output that many cover songs sound like the stereotypical photocopy of a photocopy: all of the emotion and heart is lost. However, that’s changed for the better over the years, and now culminates in the fantastic compilation Say Yes! A Tribute to Elliott Smith (American Laundromat Records). Continue reading »

Oct 272016
 
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It’s been a good year for covers of Tom Petty’s non-Heartbreakers tracks. Back in January we heard Jane Kramer’s great version of a Highway Companion deep cut, and now we have My Goodness covering a better-known song off a better-known album: Wildflower’s lead single “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” The Seattle duo of guitarist/vocalist Joel Schneider and drummer Andy Lum slows the song way down on their upcoming EP Islands, giving it a spooky menace just in time for Halloween.

“We were listening to a lot of Tom Petty on our last US tour, great driving music – so we decided to choose a classic and take it to a dark place,” Lum tells us. “When we started recording in Seattle, our producer Shawn suggested we play the song at double speed and slow the tape down to get this spacey, warped drum sound. It felt insane while we were tracking, but the end result was totally worth it.” Continue reading »

Oct 212016
 
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Mary J. Blige made headlines earlier this month when she sang Bruce Springsteen‘s “American Skin (41 Shots)” directly to Hillary Clinton during an interview. Now she has released a proper recording, accompanied by Kendrick Lamar, whose To Pimp a Butterfly addressed many of the same issues as this song. It ain’t no secret, to quote the track, why Blige is covering it right now. Though Springsteen wrote it 15 years ago, the topic of unwarranted police shootings is more prevalent in the age of Black Lives Matter than ever. At the time, he earned boos from policemen for the song, and it will be interesting to see if Blige and Lamar’s version inspires the same outrage. Continue reading »

Oct 202016
 
TheLandBelow

Later this year, we’ll be posting our year-end lists. One category we don’t include is “Best New Cover Performer” – but if we did, The Land Below would be a shoe-in. We’ve already heard him beautifully cover Slipknot, Alanis Morisette, and Eagle-Eye Cherry (how’s that for a diverse source list?). Now he’s back with another unexpected pick, Moby’s “Porcelain.” Less unexpected: he does a fantastic job, once again. Continue reading »

Oct 182016
 
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More people should be covering songs off Gillian Welch’s 2011 album The Harrow & the Harvest. We named Night Beds’ take on “The Way the Whole Thing Ends” one of The Best Cover Songs of 2014, and Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker’s new version of “Dark Turn of the Mind” might end up on this year’s list. Continue reading »

Oct 182016
 
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This past weekend, Chris Thile of Cover Me-favorites Nickel Creek hosted his first Prairie Home Companion after Garrison Keillor stepped down. There’s been a lot of speculation over whether fans of Lake Wobegon and “Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie” will stick around with Keillor gone, so Thile brought out the big guns for his debut, booking Jack White for his first-ever appearance. White sang solo material, Raconteurs, and White Stripes songs in new acoustic arrangements (one with his Third Man labelmate Margo Price) and even played a new cover, of Bobby Bare‘s 1969 country hit “(Margie’s At) The Lincoln Park Inn.” Continue reading »