Jul 122019
 

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

Bad Shepherds

Confession time: it took a while for the Bad Shepherds’ Yan, Tan, Tethera, Methara to sink in. For one thing, there are rather too many novelty covers projects for comfort, from the initially inventive Hayseed Dixie to the downright bizarre Rockabye lullaby renditions. For another thing, bandleader Adrian “Ade” Edmondson is better known as a comic actor, from The Young Ones to Bottom, and is the husband of Jennifer “Absolutely Fabulous” Saunders. The whole affair smacked of novelty and nonsense, setting all my prejudices bristling. And so it remained, my ears deaf to compromise.

But I hadn’t realized a number of things. Firstly, Edmondson was both a genuine lover of both folk music and of the punk and new wave he interprets in that genre. Not such an odd combination as it sounds, broadly similar to my own tastes, we being of similar ages and backgrounds. But rather than combining with other hobby musicians, Edmondson hooked up with a giant in the tradition, Troy Donockley, an Englishman adept on the Irish uillean pipes, with a track record playing alongside prog-rockers The Enid, Celtic rockers Iona and with doyenne of the Northumbrian pipes, Kathryn Tickell. Since 2013 he has been a member of Finnish band Nightwish.

Whilst nominally a duo, they enlisted Andy Dinan on fiddle, a onetime all-Ireland fiddle champion, for this album and the subsequent 2009 tour, with the late Maartin Allcock, erstwhile of Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull (both at once!), appearing on guitars when available. Edmondson played mandolin and sang, claiming to be a novice on both instruments. Rather than any straight ahead thrash, the arrangements were both sensitive to the originals, and respectful to the tradition, the insertion of many a traditional air going neither unnoticed nor uncredited. And neither was this any folk-rock lumpen jig and reel fest; the arrangements captured the heart and soul of the listener, rather than merely their feet.

Two further records appeared in 2010 and 2013, based largely on the accolades given the project, with votes as best live act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk awards in 2010, and the same for Spiral Earth, a website devoted to music festivals of all genres, in 2012. But it is this first recording that hits hardest the spot as a cover classic, the choices of songs being exemplary and the performances uplifting.
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Mar 272015
 

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

Lemmy has admitted to being more of a slot machine man than a poker one, but the Motorhead bassist knew which topic would make a better lyric (“when it comes to that sort of thing… you can’t really sing about spinning fruit”). “Ace of Spades,” his paean to gambling that sure sounds like it’s about more than your typical deck of cards, is his band’s signature work and the proto-speed metal song. Anyone can perform it and sound dynamic – even a bunch of plastic dolls.
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Mar 062015
 

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 way Adrian Edmondson tells it, he bought a mandolin after an inebriation-inducing lunch near Denmark Street in Soho, “a very dangerous place to be with a group of friends, drunk, if you have either cash, or a credit card about your person.” The next day, he picked it up and began playing the songs of his youth – by bands like the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and other bands that certainly informed his portrayal of Vyvyan Basterd in the beloved Britcom The Young Ones. What came out was something very special indeed – so much so that Edmondson went out to find like-minded folk musicians to play this music with him, and when he found Uilleann pipe player Troy Donockley, the Bad Shepherds were born.
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Apr 172012
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

buzzcocks cover songs

The Buzzcocks were unique among British punk bands of the late seventies; not only were they more melodic (at a breakneck pace, granted) than most of their peers, they were prone to lead with their hearts. Pete Shelley, lead vocalist and chief songwriter, was the reason why; while other groups traded furor and phlegm gems with their audiences, Shelley yelped about love and lust, found and lost, in a way that girls and boys could both relate to, and he did it in perfect three-minute bursts. Shelley turns 57 today and is still going strong; we’re honoring him with these five covers from the first phase of the Buzzcocks’ career. Continue reading »