Sep 072018
 

kilonovaWilliam Elliott Whitmore is 40, but he has always sounded like a much older man, with a deep, soulful voice that gives everything he sings a certain gravitas.  Think Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, or late Dylan, or most of all, Johnny Cash at his most apocalyptic.  If Whitmore sang “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” you’d still worry, and probably be unhappy.  I first heard Whitmore in 2006, opening for Lucero, at the Bowery Ballroom in New York, and was immediately transfixed by his timeless voice, dark songs, austere banjo, guitar and foot stomping accompaniment, and intense performance.

Born and raised on a 150-acre farm in southeastern Iowa, which he inherited from his parents and still owns, Whitmore grew up singing and playing guitar and banjo, with musical influences that started with country and moved toward punk as he got older.  At a certain point, though, Whitmore realized that he needed to focus on the folky, rustic, blues music that he grew up on–but with a punk edge.

So when Bloodshot Records released Kilonova, an album of covers of (mostly) lesser known songs from many musical eras, the question was, how would such a distinctive artist put his stamp on this block of diverse songs? “Diverse” barely begins to tell the story–artists range from Dock Boggs, to Johnny Cash,  to the Magnetic Fields to Bad Religion.

In short, the answer is, remarkably well.
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Mar 222017
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

bringing it all back home covers

Bob Dylan’s 1965 Newport Folk Festival concerts is one of the most famous – or infamous – performances of all time, subject to numerous books, documentaries, and debates over why Pete Seeger threatened to cut the power cable with an axe. But the fact is, by the time he stepped on that stage, Dylan had already gone electric, four months prior. The first half of his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home – which turns 52 today – is all electric. And not the sort of light electric augmentation other folk singers were experimenting with either. The first track “Subterranean Homesick Blues” may still be the loudest, hardest track of Dylan’s entire career. He’d already drawn his line in the sand; the folk-music crowd had just chosen to ignore it.

To celebrate this landmark album’s 52nd birthday, we’re giving it the full-album treatment. Our recent tributes to Dylan albums have covered underrated works like 1978’s Street Legal and 1985’s Empire Burlesque, but today we return to the classics. Such classics, in fact, that in addition to our main cover picks we list some honorable-mention bonus covers for each song. Continue reading »

Jan 242012
 

Though Bob Dylan moved away from his role as a ‘protest singer’ long ago — we saw Another Side by his fourth album — his name will forever be associated with social activism. The international human rights organization Amnesty International rose out of the same turbulent era as Dylan, forming in 1961, the year Dylan recorded his first album. Fitting, then, that in celebration of their 50th birthday, Amnesty would call on artists to contribute their Dylan covers to the massive four disc set Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. Continue reading »

Oct 182011
 

Remember that Amnesty International Dylan tribute album we told you about a few months back? Well we now have have more information on it. It’s called Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. In addition to Bad Religion and Rise Against, it also features covers by My Morning Jacket, Sting, Patti Smith, Dave Matthews Band, Adele, Lucinda Williams, Jack’s Mannequin, and…Ke$ha. Continue reading »

Jun 302011
 

Just when you thought the Bob Dylan birthday love was finally over, there’s reportedly a new tribute in the works for later this year being put together by Amnesty International. So far Bad Religion and Rise Against have announced their participation, the latter covering “The Ballad of Hollis Brown.” The album follows 2007’s Instant Karma, Amnesty International’s massive tribute to John Lennon, and celebrates Amnesty’s 50th year. Continue reading »

Oct 192010
 

If you’re a big fan of Bad Religion, you should know this about me up front: I had no idea that they were as influential as they apparently are. I knew them simply as a decent punk band that, for reasons I didn’t fully appreciate, seemed to be on constant rotation on my hometown radio station. So you can imagine my confusion when I heard that a pretty solid lineup featuring the likes of Tegan and Sara, Switchfoot, Ted Leo, the Weakerthans, and others were covering their favorite Bad Religion songs for the tribute album Germs of Perfection: A Tribute to Bad Religion. “Does the world need this?” I wondered.

As it turns out, I was kind of an idiot. Bad Religion’s been around for 31 years—as in, since 1979. Their guitarist for most of that time has been Brett Gurewitz, founder and owner of Epitaph Records and affiliates ANTI-, Burning Heart Records, Fat Possum Records, and Hellcat Records. Germs of Perfection, which was released by SPIN and MySpace Music as a free download today, commemorates the 30-year anniversary of Epitaph, which is as good a reason as any for such a tribute. Continue reading »