Jul 172018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

nicki bluhm cover songs

Singer-songwriter Nicki Bluhm boasts a lot of experience with collaboration. Her new album To Rise You Gotta Fall (hear a track below) features two co-writes with her friend Ryan Adams, and in recent years she’s toured in Phil Lesh’s band and as part of the Incredible Stringdusters. When last I saw her live, she was singing “The Weight” in Levon’s barn as part of Amy Helm’s female-musicians collective Skylark.

So as someone who knows how different musicians and genres can blend to create unexpected classics, it’s no surprise she’s a fan of cover songs. She used to record amazing covers with her band while driving the van, and her new album includes a powerful blast through Dan Penn’s “I Hate You” (appropriate for a divorce record). And she digs deep in her cover recommendations below, going from a certain song you might remember from last month’s Best Beyoncé Covers countdown to a nod to a Grateful Dead song she has sung with Lesh himself. Check out Nicki’s picks below. Continue reading »

Jul 122018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

jon cleary covers

Six years ago on a visit to New Orleans, I traveled to the legendary Tipitina’s club for a Professor Longhair tribute show. I know most of the headliners, at least loosely: Dr. John of course, plus Meters bassist George Porter Jr. and Marsalis clan patriarch Ellis. The one guy I’d never heard of, though, blew me away. His name was Jon Cleary, and I appeared to be the only person in the room ignorant of his work.

Cleary is a New Orleans icon, a boogie-woogie piano savant following in the Dr. John and Allen Toussaint tradition (he’s played with both). NPR has called him “pure New Orleans,” while Southern Living wrote that “the pianist’’s name is synonymous with his city.” He’s got a new album Dyna-Mite out this week, Crescent City funk at its finest. Here’s the title track:

To celebrate the new album, Jon Cleary told us about his five favorite cover songs. His selections travel the world, but keep coming back to New Orleans. Just like Cleary himself. Continue reading »

Jun 262018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

lena hall cover songs

Broadway star Lena Hall (Kinky Boots, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) has been releasing an ambitious series of EPs this year. Every month, she covers a handful of tracks by a favorite artist. In what she’s dubbed the Obsessed series, she’s already tackled Elton John, Peter Gabriel, and The Cranberries. June’s installment say her bringing her Broadway belt to five Radiohead songs; here’s a highlight:

Jack White is next month’s featured artist, and I’m quite excited for that one. As the covers Hall selected for us demonstrate, she’s something of a White Stripes superfan. She’ll hopefully preview one or two of her upcoming Stripes covers at her New York concert tomorrow night, “Six Months of Obsessions: From Radiohead to Hedwig” at Public Arts (tickets here).

Check out Hall’s cover-song picks below. Sure hope Dolly Parton and Soundgarden are on her Obsessed docket… Continue reading »

Jun 212018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

jeffrey foucault cover songs

No less than The New Yorker once wrote “Jeffrey Foucault, sings stark, literate songs that are as wide open as the landscape of his native Midwest” (and they know from literate). For going on two decades, the unassuming Wisconsin singer-songwriter has been quietly releasing some of the best folk records of the current century. Though maybe not that quietly; he does have people like Don Henley saying he “clocks modern culture about as good as I’ve ever heard anybody clock it.”

Along the way Foucault has released some beautiful covers himself, including a terrific murder-ballads album with Mark Erelli, a John Prine tribute on his own, and a great take on Bob Dylan’s “Señor” just last year. His new album Blood Brothers, though, is all originals. It comes out tomorrow, but you can hear “Blown,” a beautiful duet with Tift Merritt, now: Continue reading »

Jun 182018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

fantastic negrito cover songs

In the year 2000, the musician known as Fantastic Negrito almost died. A car accident put him in a three-week coma before requiring months of brutal physical therapy. When he finally got out of the hospital, permanent damage to his guitar-playing hand forced him to retire from music. He eventually moved to Oakland and became an urban farmer growing vegetables and, as his new bio artfully puts it, “other, more profitable, green matter.”

A lot has happened since then. He eventually returned to music, and quickly achieved the sort of milestones he never did the first time around. He won the first-ever NPR Tiny Desk Contest in 2015, earned a longtime champion and mentor in Chris Cornell, and, just last year, won his first Grammy award, for Best Contemporary Blues Album. But the accident’s after-effects linger in his mind on new album Please Don’t Be Dead, which features a real photo from his hospital stay as its cover. Watch the music video for single “The Duffler”: Continue reading »

Jun 112018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

the posies covers

Beloved power-pop stalwarts The Posies turn 30 this year, and are celebrating with an ambitious round of reissues of their first three major-label albums: 1990’s Dear 23 (out this Friday), 1993’s Frosting on the Beater (out August 3), and 1996’s Amazing Disgrace (out October 28). All feature new remasters from the original tapes and unheard bonus tracks. While we wait, relive the original version of one of their biggest hits, “Dream All Day.”

The band is currently on a lengthy 30th anniversary tour (upcoming dates at the bottom, and also here), but founding members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer took some downtime in the van to tell us about their favorite cover songs. As will not surprise anyone who’s heard their music, they really like Elvis Costello! Also not surprising: These two guys know their stuff, digging deep into the crates of soul, college-rock, and beyond.

And now, join Ken and Jon as they lead you on a guided tour through their cover-song collections… Continue reading »