Feb 082018
 
john oates stack o lee

The subtitle for John Oates’ new solo album Arkansas should have been: No Synthesizer, No Hall – No Problem. The album of acoustic-driven Americana and folk rock is more like a Steve Earle record than anything put out by the dynamic duo of Hall & Oates in the 1980s. And that’s just fine. Oates sounds like he’s having a blast on the collection of originals and folk standards. One of the more intriguing cuts is his cover of “Stack O Lee” commonly known as “Stagger Lee.”

The “Stagger Lee” myth runs deep through the heart of American popular music. The folk tune, sometimes called “Staggolee” or “Stack-a-Lee,” has been around in one form or another since the 1890s. The main thrust of the lyrics is a fight in which “Stagger” Lee Shelton killed Billy Lyons in a bar in St. Louis. By one count, more than 400 different renditions of the song have been recorded by blues singers, folkies, pop singers, punk bands and jam bands alike. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame singer Lloyd Price scored a number one hit in early 1959 with his take on the song. Continue reading »

Feb 072018
 
lykke li time in a bottle

Lykke Li rarely records covers, but when she does, they matter. From her revelatory take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs” to her live version of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” she has an unbroken streak of winning reinventions of unlikely songs. And she continues that streak on her latest, a cover of “Time in a Bottle” that sounds more like James Bond than Jim Croce. Continue reading »

Feb 052018
 
foo fighters kiss cover

The Foo Fighters are no strangers to the strategic placement and eclectic choices of cover songs sprinkled throughout their setlists when they are on the road. And on their current 2018 world tour, they are certainly delivering the cover song goods. With Weezer along as the opening act for the down under leg, at a recent Melbourne show Dave Grohl called frontman Rivers Cuomo to the stage a for rousing rendition of the Kiss anthem “Detroit Rock City.” It was captured on a not-too-bad quality fan video. Continue reading »

Feb 052018
 
skylar grey stand by me

Skylar Grey has been all over the music spectrum in recent years. Working with the likes of Eminem, Diddy, Dr. Dre, and Lupe Fiasco, Grey has become somewhat of an “It Girl” when it comes to hip-hop collaborations. She was schooled mostly in folk and jazz, though, and goes back to her roots in play here with this cover version of Ben E. King’s iconic “Stand By Me.”

This version of the iconic song that aired as part of the 2018 Superb Bowl ad campaign for Budweiser focuses on disaster relief, featuring a brewery turned into a water-canning facility to help deliver water to hurricane-affected areas. The song and accompanying video set a dramatic bird’s-eye backdrop as the camera goes from neighborhood to neighborhood, capturing both the devastation of the storms and the spirit of the people that were directly impacted. Continue reading »

Feb 022018
 
strombo show covers

As an avant-garde jazz-influenced album, David Bowie’s final record Blackstar would seem damn-near uncoverable (unless you’re an avante-garde jazz band). But the songs keep getting covered, and by some surprising artists. Sting covered “Lazarus.” Nine Inch Nails covered “I Can’t Give Everything Away.” Amanda Palmber and Anna Calvi covered the title track. (So did Car Seat Headrest and Hiatus Kaiyote’s Nai Palm, blending it with Radiohead, no less).

The latest comes from indie-rock vets Spoon, who tackled “I Can’t Give Anything Away” on The Strombo Show, a radio program that is quickly become Canada’s answer to other international cover-shows BBC Live Lounge and Triple J “Like a Version.” Britt Daniel’s understated vocals deliver the quiet melody and bigger chorus perfectly, but the secret star of this stripped-down version might be pianist Alex Fischel. Needless to say, it sounds quite different than Nine Inch Nails’ take on the tune.

And, while we’re at it, here’s a bunch of other Strombo Show covers from recent episodes too. Continue reading »

Feb 012018
 
death by piano

We’ve heard a lot of “Jolene” covers over the years. It’s a country staple, of course, and it’s also earned its fair share of great genre-crossing versions, from the White Stripes’ roaring classic to 48 Cameras’ Lynch-ian spook song. But we’ve never heard a cover quite like this.

Death By Piano are a new Brooklyn duo who describe themselves as “electro-pop-noir,” which is a pretty good genre tag for this cover. Bathed in echoing synths, haunting percussion, and far-off background vocals, it reinvents a song you might have thought past reinvention. And the reason it doesn’t much sound like a “Jolene” cover is that, as it turns out, it wasn’t supposed to be. Continue reading »