“Let’s see if you can spot this one.”

Those are the words uttered by Eric Clapton before he starts the acoustic version of Derek and the Dominos’ classic “Layla” on his 1992 MTV Unplugged performance.  Those words popped into my head the moment I heard Krish Ashok start singing the song – now called “Leela” – in the ancient language of Sanskrit. Continue reading »

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

Indeed, who knows, it being all of 45 years since this song first graced any an ear. For many, their first encounter with “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” happened thanks to the Judy Collins version; many others were introduced via the Fairport Convention version, which of course included Sandy Denny as lead vocalist. But she actually first recorded the song with her earlier group, the Strawbs. (I’m choosing to ignore the lyrical shift from morning sky to evening sky to purple sky.) Folk will vie with each other as to which is the true “original”, and Sandy is no longer, these thirty-odd years, able to adjudicate. I dare say there is even an as-yet-discovered demo knocking around, Sandy solo, but so much of her vault has been plundered that maybe I’m wrong. (And, of course, I am! And it is definitely purple!)
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Mark Ronson‘s “Uptown Funk” can seem inescapable at points. It is one of those songs that fits every radio station’s genre standards, whether it’s a JACKFM-esque or only plays Top 40. The track has been in at least twelve trailers of films starring Kevin Hart. Your Dad likes it. Your boss adds a pep to his step when it plays over the office PA. Several drunk girls at a party “WOOOO” in unison as soon as its instantly recognizable introductory “Duh-da-duh-da-duh-da-da-doh” ripples over the speakers. It’s not even a few days into April, and this has already become the “Blurred Lines” of 2015, minus the glaring problematic lyrics and Marvin Gaye lawsuit. Continue reading »

Francophone chanteuse Cœur de Pirate revels in the art of soothing piano-driven reworks, and with this latest cover of English electronica trio Years & Years (whose frontman some might recognize from the British Skins), she continues to show off that prowess. Continue reading »

I had high hopes for Robert Earl Keen’s new album, Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions. My first exposure to REK was 1989′s West Textures, still for me his best work, partly because the acoustic band accompanying him on that is a bluegrass band, even if the songs aren’t. Keen’s style, for me, has never quite suited electricity. Combine this with my love of bluegrass, and surely this would be a no-brainer?

Well, I liked it, but if I’m honest, I only liked it some. Positives first: Keen has the ideal woebegone plaintiveness for this sort of material (think Droopy with a recording contract), as he plumbs death, prison and heartbreak in turn. (Have you ever heard a truly happy bluegrass song?) The band, including Danny Barnes of Bad Livers repute on banjo, underpin his singing with zest and vim, and a plethora of guests add to an agreeable mix. Of these, special mention to erstwhile Dixie Chick Natalie Maines (daughter of Lloyd Maines, the album’s producer), bringing more sprightliness to the oft-covered “Lonesome Stranger” than can be found on some of the album’s other numbers.
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When it comes to Brandon Flowers, there are two types of people: 1) those that like him for his music and 2) those that are so over-the-top infatuated with him that it’s borderline psychotic.  (Think “Deadheads” who shower regularly and have less body hair.)

I only say this because I have multiple family members and friends that fit into the latter category. Continue reading »

Eagle-Eye Cherry came on the scene in 1998.  I was working at a Top 40 station at the time and pretty much the only thing I knew about him was:

  1. His dad was famous jazz trumpeter, Don Cherry (who also co-wrote and performed on Lou Reed’s “All Through the Night”)
  2. His half-sister was Neneh Cherry, who had a huge hit in 1989 with the song “Buffalo Stance”

Still, his debut album, Desireless, went platinum and the first single, “Save Tonight”, went to #5 on the U.S. charts.  Not a bad way to start to a career.  Unfortunately, that was pretty much as far as it went for Eagle-Eye.  He has since released three more albums, but he is what we in radio call a “One Hit Wonder”. Continue reading »

In what serves as an agonizing teaser to their upcoming release, Secret Admirer lets loose a haunting ambient cover of Tears For Fears‘ “Pale Shelter.” Continue reading »

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