Mar 232018

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

field report covers

Field Report frontman Christopher Porterfield got his musical start collaborating with fellow Wisconsinite Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) in the band DeYarmond Edison. Wikipedia claims they broke up in 2006, but if that band name sounds familiar more recently, it’s because they contributed one of the absolute best covers of 2016’s 59-track Day of the Dead Grateful Dead tribute, backing Bruce Hornsby on “Black Muddy River.” Hornsby’s vocals are amazing, of course, but listen to how Porterfield, Vernon, and co. give him such a lush bed to sing over for an eight-minute cover that feels as relaxed and winding as its name sake.

Suffice to say, Porterfield knows his way around a good cover song. And he knows his way around songwriting too. We first came across the band in 2014 with “Home (Leave the Lights On),” one of the absolute best songs of the entire year. And today Field Report releases their third album, Summertime Songs. The tone is darker than Beach Boys-esq title might imply, exploring Porterfield’s anxiety before the birth of his first child. That said, like the best of Bruce Springsteen (whom the album sometimes channels), these are anxious songs that would still sound great driving down the highway with the top down. Watch the band play single “Never Look Back” on CBS This Morning last month: Continue reading »

Mar 222018
cole porter night and day cover

There’s a great scene in the not-so-great Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely where Kevin Kline tries to explain to an actor how to properly sing the classic song, “Night and Day.” “It’s about obsession,” Kline, as Porter, tells his young charge. “It’s about being in love. You’ve been love? Alright, obsess about it. … It’s relentless.” Obsession, lust and the clash of emotions as daytime shifts into night make for good tropes in a show tune origin story. The themes work equally well when transplanted into the metal genre as Portland cross-genre covers band MetalMorphosis recently demonstrated on their cover of the tune. Continue reading »

Mar 212018

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

erika wennerstrom covers

For the third entry in our new “Pick Five” series – following Frank Turner and Emel Mathlouthi – we checked in with singer and songwriter Erika Wennerstrom. She is preparing to release her solo debut this Friday as her band Heartless Bastards takes an extended hiatus. Titled Sweet Unknown (where Wennerstrom is venturing after 15 years fronting the band), the album spotlights, as Consequence of Sound puts it, “the warm and bluesy instrument fans of Heartless Bastards have grown to love.” That instrument is, as anyone who has heard a single Heartless Bastards will know, her powerhouse vocals.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that the five covers she selected for us all feature powerful vocal performances. Powerful, though, in very different ways, ranging from Aretha Franklin’s gospel belt to Johnny Cash’s fragile whisper. Let’s turn it over to her: Continue reading »

Mar 182018

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

anarchy in the uk covers

With the release of over 70 SecondHandSongs-verified versions of the Sex Pistols’ debut single since 1976 (and many more informal covers), “Anarchy In The U.K.” takes the punk prize for being their most-covered song. The harsh rallying cry for Britain’s disaffected youth has generated over 10 million views on one YouTube post alone. As noted in our track-by-track covers review of Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols, “Anarchy” kicked-off a cultural phenomenon and has garnered accolades from establishment icons like Rolling Stone magazine and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which, at the time, the band would have stood systematically against.

The original appeared as a single nearly a year before it was featured on the band’s one and only studio album. It opens with the crashing of guitars, drums and John Lydon’s shout of “Rrrright! Now!” followed by laughter. The sonic assault breaks for a fake belch before Lydon resumes his screeching diatribe that includes a laundry list of politically themed abbreviations (IRA, UDA, MPLA) and the recently-discontinued British music newsweekly NME.

Music writer Tim Sommer in The Observer had this to say in a great article about the song on its 40th anniversary:

But for a staggering, shattering few moments, “Anarchy in the U.K.” and the Sex Pistols shocked the world as no other artist ever has or ever will. We can never recreate that moment, the instant when a rock band from the wrong side of the socio-economic spectrum made a loud noise and shouted “Match!” while sitting on a pile of dynamite, but here’s hoping it can happen again.

We’ve rounded up a variety of styles of the iconic track worth sharing. John Lydon marked his final live performance as Johnny Rotten with the question, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” It’s safe to say that none of these covers will leave you feeling that way!

Continue reading »

Mar 152018

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

Rich Girl covers

In 1960, Victor and Everett Walker opened the first Walker Bros. Original Pancake House in Wilmette, IL. By the end of the decade, Victor retired, having sold his restaurant and the 15 KFC franchises he owned. At age 50, he was fixed for life – as were his three sons. One of them, Victor Jr., dated a woman named Sara Allen for a while in college. She broke up with Victor Jr. (but remained friends) and began going out with Daryl Hall, who would write “Sara Smile” about her and write many other songs with her.

Hall knew the young Vic and later referred to him as a “burnout.” “He came to our apartment, and he was acting sort of strange,” Hall said in an interview. “I said, ‘This guy is out of his mind, but he doesn’t have to worry about it because his father’s gonna bail him out of any problems he gets in.'” That thought led to a song. “But you can’t write, ‘You’re a rich boy’ in a song,” Hall said, “so I changed it to a girl.” Continue reading »

Mar 132018
Jordan Mackampa

Already on the short list of my personal favorite cover songs of 2018, singer Jordan Mackampa’s take on Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” is a nuanced gem. From the acoustic guitar beginning on to the first lines, “Holly came from Miami F.L.A., Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A,” there is a mood-setting moment where you come to completely understand why you love music in general, and cover songs in particular.

The video itself is the first launching from COVERS, a new YouTube video series from the “Mahogany” sessions series. Mackampa starts things out sitting on a sparse office chair, guitar resting on his knee, slightly hunched over with a mood-setting backlight. At about the one minute mark, Georgia Mason and her autoharp make their appearance, and this is where the real magic begins. Continue reading »