Dec 192013
 

I’m not sure there were more great cover songs this year than any other. But there were more good ones.

What I mean by that is, the average quality of the covers we come across in the time we’ve been around has risen, rather dramatically. Whether they’re iTunes homepage singles or some guy emailing us his Bandcamp, more cover songs in 2013 avoid the old pitfalls than ever before. They don’t sound like they were recorded in a cereal box, substitute ear-bleeding volume for actual creativity, or – the worst cover sin of all – try to carbon-copying the original. With the ease of production and distribution available now, artists seemed to record covers only when they felt they had something to add, and do a halfway decent job committing those ideas to 1s and 0s. Continue reading »

Dec 132013
 

Fifty years ago, a covers album wasn’t called a “covers album.” It was called an album. Full stop.

Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Billie Holiday – most albums anyone bought were “covers albums” as we’d think of them today, but that’s not how folks thought of them then. Once the public began putting a premium on singers writing their own songs in the ’60s the concept of course shifted, so that an artist doing a covers album has to be like Michael Jordan playing baseball – an okay diversion but let’s get back to the main event please.

More so this year than ever before though, that pendulum seems to be swinging back in small but meaningful ways to what an album originally meant. More and more artists are releasing LPs saying, this is not my new quote-on-quote “covers album,” this is my new album (that happens to consist of covers). The attitude showcases a confidence and surety of purpose that shows they take performing other peoples songs every bit as seriously as they do their own.

That holds true for both of our top two covers albums this year, and plenty more sprinkled throughout. Which isn’t to knock anyone doing a covers album as a lark, novelty, tribute, or side project – you’ll see plenty of those here as well – but any blurred lines that put a “covers album” on the same level as a “normal” album have to be a good thing.

Start our countdown on Page 2…

May 132013
 

Tomorrow, Bhi Bhiman releases covers album Substitute Preacher, his mostly-acoustic take on everyone from the Police to Dio. As these things often do, the project started with one song.

“The inspiration to do this covers record came from one song,” Bhiman wrote. “It was “Walk of Life”, by Dire Straits. I knew the song since being a kid, and I’ve always thought of it as Mark Knopfler’s nod to Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ The song really rings true with me because, in a way, it’s my story too. So I started doing a live version, in a country blues style with the audience whistling along, and it became a highlight of my shows.”

For the video, Bhiman brought in old Buster Keaton footage, calling him the “greatest physical comedian of all time.” Listen to “Walk of Life” – and watch Keaton paddle a horse, scrub a lion, and fall down a lot – below.

Check out more Bhi Bhiman at his website.

Mar 292012
 

Hailing from the blues hotbed of St. Louis, Bhi Bhiman isn’t your typical acoustic guitar-strumming, harp-blowing, scratchy-voiced folk troubadour. While many of his folk peers strive for the classic early-Bob Dylan aesthetic, Bhi’s voice has a soulful smoothness to it that makes him sound more like Cee-Lo Green than Ramblin’ Jack Elliot or Woody Guthrie. Considering the obvious vocal resemblance between Bhiman and the former Goodie Mob rapper, it seems only natural that Bhi would offer his own acoustic interpretation of Green’s most vocally-ambitious track, the hit single “Crazy” from the 2006 debut album by Gnarls Barkley, Green’s collaborative project with Danger Mouse. Continue reading »