Apr 032020
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Joe Pernice

If Joe Pernice flies below the radar, it’s seemingly with a bit of pride, or blithe indifference. Consider the title of his live concert DVD: “Nobody’s Watching/Nobody’s Listening.” That didn’t come from a branding consultant.

He’s released 17 recordings over the years, but all under different monikers. The Scud Mountain Boys, Pernice Brothers, Chappaquiddick Skyline, Roger Lion, and The New Mendicants, to name a few. He’s even recorded and performed as Joe Pernice on occasion. A restless artist unconcerned with continuity, he’ll disband a band only to reform it decades later. He’s been known to ditch a completed album at the final mixing phase. And now and then Pernice falls into radio silence: during those stretches he is writing poetry, fiction, and (to pay bills) tv cop show scripts. However an artist gets on the radar in the music biz, this is not the recommended flight path.

Nothing changes the fact that Pernice is a top-notch singer and composer. When it comes to covers, his choices are inspired. They appear quirky at first, or even jokey in some cases. But then you listen, getting drawn in by Pernice’s plaintive voice. You then get stirred, you find new admiration for a song that you had condescended to or shrugged off. The song needed the Pernice treatment to get through.

See for yourself. Here’s a half-dozen choice covers from a quarter-century worth of Joe Pernice output. Add them to a playlist and name it “Somebody’s Watching/Somebody’s Listening.” Continue reading »

Under the Radar: Sweep

 Posted by at 12:00 pm  1 Response »
Apr 022020
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

SWEEP

Regular readers might not all be aware of erstwhile UK teatime favorites, the TV duo of Sooty and Sweep. Whilst the show limps on in several formats, time has not always been kind to Sweep, a roan cocker spaniel who first made his performing debut, astonishingly, as far back as 1957, and he has had to learn to adjust to the changing demands of a fickle audience. In the last year or so he has discovered a powerful and emotive singing voice: previously able only to vocalize in a fashion understandable to his close colleagues and family, he has learnt how to sing. Whilst this is not fully understood, this is perhaps akin to a stroke victim retaining or recouping the power of song ahead of the return of speech. and, although he can now speak, this famously first taking place on air in 2014, song still remains easier.

Sweep, always a keen musician anyway, through his longstanding membership of the Sooty Braden Showband between the late ’60s and early ’70s, has produced, to date, 186 videos, encompassing all genres and styles. These are usually solo acapella performances, he proving himself adept at maintaining rhythm with clapped hands and vocal beatbox effects, much in the style of Bobby McFerrin, with polyphony and multiphony.
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Mar 132020
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Brass Against

Protest music is back, spread the word!

The bio for Brass Against on Spotify tells it all: “In this politically challenging era, it’s time to stand up against the machine. We want the music we perform to sound inspiring and resonate with people’s emotions, encouraging them to act.” Their style is a mix of big band and sick bars. The band does have their own original music, but they are known for their covers, like those of the band they paid homage to in their own name, Rage Against the Machine.

Brad Hammonds, leader of the Brass Against group, was inspired to return to protest music as Donald Trump started amassing power. He told Louder, “I know when I listen to political inspired bands I get really energised, especially Rage.” Same, Brad. Same.

And as alluded to, Rage Against the Machine is no stranger to protest music (or covers, for that matter). The band members have been vocal about their anti-authoritarianism and have used their platform to advocate for their beliefs. They have held protest concerts at both the Democratic National Convention (in 2000) and the Republican National Convention (in 2008), which led to both violence and police action. Rage Against the Machine is back to raging, reuniting for a world tour nine years after they have last played together and twenty years since their last full tour. Proceeds from the tour will go to charities, including those that advocate for immigrant rights.

I encourage you to work through Brass Against’s full three albums when you need a little fuel for your hate fire, but we’ll go through some highlights here.

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Mar 112020
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

The Holophonics

I am converted; ska punk is rad. You might think this is a wacky genre that could only be found in the depths of Every Noise at Once, but the genre has roots in the ’70s UK rock scene and has made its way into mainstream music with bands like No Doubt (think “Spiderwebs”). Ska punk is apparently on the verge of a revival this year, with The Interrupters opening the joint tour of Green Day, Weezer, and Fall Out Boy this summer.

The Holophonics are a sextet from Texas who both make original ska punk music and bring spa punk flair to covers. Since the band formed in 2018, they have released a whopping 14 cover albums, cleverly labeled “maskarades,” including one just released at the end of February, amongst their original work. I did a deep dive into their expansive discography and now will gladly take you on a sonic tour. You are going to hear a lot of opinionated horns and a lot of assertive vocals, and it is going to be glorious.

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Jul 022019
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Handmade Moments

Anna Moss and Joel Ludford make up Handmade Moments, a jazz folk duo formed in 2014 after the break up of their original band Don’t Stop Please. Moss and Ludford developed a following in Arkansas and started to travel across the country performing. Unfortunately, in 2016 they hit a major setback when they were both involved in a serious bus accident, requiring time off from touring to recover. However, this recuperation period spawned their album Paw Paw Tree, released in 2018.

This duo has chemistry and a myriad of instrument capabilities; throughout their repertoire of covers, you’ll see them play saxophone, ukulele, guitar, upright bass, even beatbox. Whether it’s soul, funk, or hip-hop, Handmade Moments have the talent to tackle both classic covers and unexpected ones. Here are some of their best.

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May 172019
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

The Dollyrots

Power couple Kelly Ogden and Luis Cabezas formed the Dollyrots, a pop punk band, in 2000. The oft-quoted origin story sets the scene for their musical style:

“We were watching the 2000 presidential election results, and at four o’clock in the morning, when we found out that George W. Bush had won, Luis and I were like, ‘The world’s probably gonna end anyway, and I don’t want to go to med school,’ so we thought, ‘Let’s just do the band.'”

Honestly, who hasn’t felt the same urge recently?

If you are “fashionably socialized” you may have at least heard of The Dollyrots’ biggest hit, “Because I’m Awesome,” in one of the variety of television shows, movies, and commercials that featured it. Along with releasing original music consistently over the years, The Dollyrots have covered a wide range of songs that span genres and decades of origin. Here is just taste of what they have to offer cover-wise.

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