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.
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.”
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.”
Though a prolific songwriter in his own right – three albums and four EPs worth of songs since 2013 – Jared Putnam has always been a fan of a good cover. After the breakup of his previous band The Conversation, he launched current solo project The March Divide with covers of Radiohead and The Cure. Now, so many original releases later, he returns to the covers well to pay homage to the artists he loved growing up in the 1980s.
“People might write this off as a rehash, but that honestly didn’t even occur to me until I was finished recording,” he wrote announcing the project. “For me, these songs are endearing. I was a little kid and these songs were on MTV. Everyone loves something about these songs.”
Many listeners’ knowledge of Hawaiian music begins and ends with Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (which, to be fair, deserves every play it gets). But on a new album, a new trio aims to change that by adapting a dozen familiar songs across decades into a new genre they call “Hawaiian noir.” Like David Lynch in Maui, they reinvent songs by Nirvana (“In Bloom”), The Cars (“Drive”), Radiohead (“Bulletproof…I Wish I Was”), Chris Isaak (“Wicked Game”), and more with ukuleles, lap steel, and harmonies.
Known as Hula Hi-Fi, the band is new but the players – Josh Kaler, Annie Clements and Sarah Bandy – are seasoned, having worked with the likes of Sugarland, Amos Lee, Butch Walker, and more in their respective careers. Their abilities show; these are carefully constructed productions, not tossed-off ukulele strum-alongs.
Back in 2012, the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” was utterly and infuriatingly ubiquitous. Instantly catchy – and easily mockable – the song’s shouts and stomps quickly become a cliché as other bands tried to copy their and Mumford and Sons’ hit-making acoustic formula. Much like you can’t really blame Pearl Jam for Bush though, the Lumineers and Mumfords got more flack than they deserved for kickstarting that banjo-and-suspenders wave. And on a wonderful new cover, Austin’s Chase Gassaway redeems one of the songs that began it all.
His slow, contemplative version of “Ho Hey” doesn’t have a stomp in sight. Backed by little more than some shimmery guitar plucking and a female duet partner, his “Ho Hey” would be a lot easier to croon along to than holler. It’s the first taste of his upcoming covers album A Fly Can’t Bird and it shows he’s got a true talent for revitalizing even a song we weren’t sure we ever wanted to hear again.