Apr 262013
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

It is hard to remember that in 1998, when Mermaid Avenue was released, Billy Bragg was a well-respected leftist folkie, a former busker who had progressively cleaned up and expanded his sound, and he was probably at the height of his commercial popularity. By contrast, Wilco, which was struggling to emerge from the shadows of Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, had released two albums – a debut that was not fawned over, and a follow-up that was critically adored, but far from a hit. The idea that within a few years, Wilco would become a critical and popular success, serve as an example of the music industry’s bizarre decision-making process, headline places like Madison Square Garden, and curate its own summer music festival, would probably have been scoffed at by most, including Jeff Tweedy.

Keep in mind as well that in 1998, the idea of putting out an album of unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics with brand-new music was a bit unusual, but after Mermaid Avenue, it became almost common. Later albums from artists such as Jonatha Brooke, The Klezmatics and even Tweedy’s former Uncle Tupelo bandmate and nemesis Jay Farrar (along with Anders Parker, Will Johnson and Jim James) have followed this theme, as have single songs by artists as diverse as the Navajo group Blackfire and the punk provocateurs Anti-Flag. So, Mermaid Avenue was not only fabulous music, it helped to spawn a revival of interest in the music of Woody Guthrie, which can only be a good thing.

Continue reading »

Jun 202011
 

In 1970, Steve Goodman wrote a song describing a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans which many deem the best train song ever written. In 1972 Steve pitched “City of New Orleans” to Arlo Guthrie, who recorded and released it on his album Hobo’s Lullaby. Twelve years later, Willie Nelson had a number one country single hit with his version, earning Steve Goodman a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Country Song. Continue reading »

May 242011
 

Dylan Covers A-Z presents covers of every single Bob Dylan song. View the full series here.

We began our celebrations yesterday, but today, in fact, is the big day. On May 24th, 1941, Bob Dylan was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. Twenty-one years later he released his first album and ever since…well, you know.

We continue our week-long series presenting covers of every single Dylan song with “Father of Night,” one of several Dylan songs that Manfred Mann rescued from obscurity. From there we hit songs by Jeff Buckley, The White Stripes, George Harrison, and, oh, about 54 more. Hours of music, and we’re not even halfway done! Continue reading »

Nov 242009
 

Instead of putting up a bunch of songs about turkey, football and racial genocide, we’re celebrating Thanksgiving at Cover Me by giving thanks to you, our readers, but answering your requests. We’ve solicited them the past few weeks here and on our Twitter page and here are the results. Sadly, we could not track down every cover requested, but we got most. Don’t see yours here? Consider yourself having won Stump the Blogger!


The Popcorn Orchestra – Alice’s Restaurant (Arlo Guthrie)
The requesting gold medal goes to @Totz_the_Plaid for requesting one of the very few songs actually about Thanksgiving. Well, part of it is. When a song is 18 minutes long, it tends to be about a lot of things. If the cover is three minutes and instrumental though…it’s a bit different. [Buy]

Yo La Tengo – Somebody’s Baby (Jackson Browne)
Browne wrote this song for the soundtrack to Fast Times at Ridgemont High. That might have embarrassed him if it hadn’t led to his highest-charting single ever. [Buy]

Jamie Walters – Winona (Matthew Sweet)
Matthew Sweet has become quite the cover artist himself, recently releasing his second volume of Under the Covers with the Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs. Here’s a cover of one of his originals though, off his seminal Girlfriend album. He clarifies that the title was inspired by Winona Ryder, but the song is not about her. [Buy]

Radiohead – Ceremony (Joy Division)
The request here was just for a Joy Divison cover, but I modified it to be a cover of a song other than “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” We could fill a whole post of good covers of that one. And three more posts of crappy ones. [Buy]

Max Vernon – I Kissed a Girl (Katy Perry)
A modern song “in the style of the 80s” was the request here and I couldn’t decide between this and Timid Tiger’s “Womanizer.” If at first you can’t figure out why Vernon won out though, wait ‘til the drum machine, synths and Go-Gos-esq backing vocals kick in. [Buy]

The Dresden Dolls – Pierre (Maurice Sendak / Carole King)
Sendak’s been in the limelight all fall with the Where the Wild Things Are blockbuster. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs soundtracked that one, but in 1975 Sendak co-wrote a musical with Carol King, Really Rosie, that included a version of this story. See for yourself. [Buy]

PYT – Summer of ’69 (Bryan Adams)
A request for some good old fashioned CanCon led to this one. For all you south of the border, CanCon is Canadian Content, the requirement that a certain percentage of songs played on the radio be of Canuck origin. Canadian radio seems to have a bit of an inferiority complex to me, but they shouldn’t. Sure Canada’s responsible for Alanis Morissette (don’t believe me? check out her Wikipedia photo), but I think Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and The Band make up for it. [Buy]

The King’s Singers – After the Gold Rush (Neil Young)
Speaking of which, the grouchy old man himself. As sung by a British men’s chorus, all oh whom’s voices seem to be way too high than is healthy. I do like the explanation Young purportedly gave Dolly Parton for the lyrics though: “Hell, I don’t know. It just depends on what I was taking at the time. I guess every verse has something different I’d taken.” [Buy]

Amy Millan – I Will Follow You Into the Dark (Death Cab for Cutie)
You can tell this is older Death Cab. Nowadays Ben Gibbard and the boys just follow the rest of the world into an embarrassing New Moon fandom. [Buy]

Everclear – Search and Destroy (The Stooges)
This one was only released as the B-side to the band’s recent “Everything to Everyone” single, but it should wider circulation if only to prove that the “Father of Mine” guys actually have a pair. Who knew? [Buy]