Jul 172017
 
shawn butzin

Covering one of the greatest and most distinctive vocalists of all time is a risky proposition. Many Roy Orbison covers deconstruct the songs so the new singer can tweak the melody, under-sing, or otherwise dodge away from head-to-head comparison with Roy. But on his beautiful new cover of “Blue Bayou,” Michigan’s Shawn Butzin faces the challenge directly. And, against all offs, he nails it.

Butzin brings a country twang to “Blue Bayou,” sounding closer to Roy’s Sun Records roots than the original did. He’s got the expressive voice to sell the melody, crooning over harmonica and subtle backing vocals. It’s a tribute, he says, to another Butzin with a golden voice. Continue reading »

May 042017
 
levy and the oaks

Any band from Asbury Park has an obvious choice to make. You can run like hell from any Boss comparisons or embrace your city’s favorite son. Levy & the Oaks has chosen the latter, healthier option on a new cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” premiering below.

“I’m on Fire” is one of Springsteen’s most-covered songs, and the first few guitar strums might make you expect another paint-by-numbers Americana version. But the moment Lou Panico starts singing, it becomes something special. He may hail from Springsteen’s stomping grounds, but he is not too beholden to tradition, changing the song’s melody and rhythm to make it his own. Continue reading »

Apr 182017
 
BROTHERTIGER 500x500

In May, Tears for Fears will begin a three-month tour with Hall and Oates. It’s the sort of retro package tour sure to fill sheds all summer, but an exercise in nostalgia may undersell a band whose sound remains influential across all manner of electronic music. Witness Kanye West’s prominent sample of “Memories Fade” a few years back for his ballad “Coldest Winter.” Earlier this year, one of our writers cited Gary Jules cover of “Mad World” as one of the most meaningful covers of her life.

The latest artist to acknowledge a Tears for Fears influence is New York electronic music John Jagos, who performs as Brothertiger. On his new album, he covers every song off one of his favorite albums, Tears for Fears’ biggest album, 1985’s Songs From The Big Chair. We’ve got the premiere of opening track “Shout” below. Continue reading »

Mar 082017
 
Man About a Horse

Radiohead songs work surprisingly well as bluegrass. Chris Thile’s Punch Brothers alone have covered “Kid A,” “Paranoid Android,” “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box,” “2+2=5,” and, with Sarah Jorosz, “The Tourist.” Then there’s one of those The Bluegrass Tribute To… albums saluting the band. And the latest killer Radio-grass cover comes from Philadelphia quintet Man About a Horse, tackling the very timely OK Computer track “Electioneering.” It’s the first single from their debut album out in May, and we’ve got the exclusive premiere below. Continue reading »

Feb 232017
 
MarcBroussard

Last fall, Louisiana soul singer Marc Broussard released covers album S.O.S. 2: Save Our Soul: Soul On a Mission. The second in a series of charity albums supporting Atlanta anti-poverty nonprofit City of Refuge, the record tackled soul classics by the likes of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke in big, brassy arrangements.

One of those songs was Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” Broussard’s album take was huge and passionate, with horns and backing singers galore. But in a new video that we’re pleased to premiere below, he takes it in a different direction – with a little help from his dad.

“I probably heard this song 10,000 times throughout my life,” Broussard says. “Aretha was a favorite of my father’s, this song in particular. Honestly, the first thing that struck me about it was the piano. It’s out of tune! I wouldn’t find out why until much later.” Continue reading »

Feb 222017
 
Peregrino

Today, the old bluegrass song “O’Death” is probably best known for the Ralph Stanley a cappella version prominently featured in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Stanley even sang it at the Oscars that year). But the song goes back a century or more, first recorded by Dock Boggs in 1920. That is where Mexico City rock band Peregrino first heard it, and they include a fantastic cover on their debut EP A Younger Man’s Game.

“That version, for me, is just as haunting as the Ralph Stanley version, if not more so,” singer Jairus McDonald says. “I messed around with it for a while on banjo trying to learn his version, but then I decided to make it a little bit more rock/pop-friendly in terms of structure while still maintaining the folk style. Lyrically there are quite a few verses depending on the version, but I cut it down to a simple back-and-forth with one more line from Death to sort of signify the narrator losing. I left a couple Boggs pronunciations in there as a cheeky little tip of the hat to him.” Continue reading »