Jun 022016
 
Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band

Today we have a German funk band using Caribbean steel drums to cover an influential electronic song written by a singer-songwriter most famous for his acoustic folk. Got all that?

The band is Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band, an offshoot of the Hamburg instrumentalist collective the Mighty Mocambos. Lead by guitarist Björn Wanger, the group, which specializes in several styles of funk, uses steel drums to reinterpret a wide range of songs, from 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” to Dennis Coffey’s “Scorpio” (their debut LP, 55, which includes several steel drum covers, is out now on Big Crown). Rather than cheesing up the place, the band is tasteful with its steel drums and adds elements of dub and jazz for a more compelling listen. Continue reading »

Mar 172016
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Dolly-Parton

 
Dolly Parton is one of the true legends of country & western music. Half a century after the release of her first true C&W album, 1966’s Hello, I’m Dolly, she’s announced a 60-city North American tour that will promote her upcoming 2-CD set Pure & Simple, containing both new material and greatest hits from throughout her career. For all her years in the musical industry, Dolly has never forgotten her roots, and she continues to perform at a high level at an age when most artists are tired of the road.

When looking back over her career, it’s clear that she’s an original, and her critical and commercial success as a songwriter reflects that. But like any true great, she knows the value of a good cover song. Millions and millions of dollars, in the case of Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly’s “I Will Always Love You,” but the cover songs that Dolly herself records have worth that goes beyond the bank. She’s had huge success with covers in each of the last several decades. Here are some of her best.
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Jun 272014
 

Ex-Fleet Foxes member Josh Tillman, better known as Father John Misty, last released his album Fear Fun on Sub Pop back in 2012. Since then, he has provided the soundtrack to a short film and has dabbled in the cover world, such as the piece we saw for a Johnny Cash tribute. Combining his love for providing soundtracks and covers, Father John Misty has just covered Cat Stevens‘s “Trouble” for the upcoming documentary, ONCE I WAS: The Hal Ashby Story. Continue reading »

May 132014
 

With the possible exception of Martin Scorsese, no movie director has been more closely identified with his soundtracks than Wes Anderson. He has consistently selected songs by well-known artists that, through no fault of their own, have become three-quarters forgotten over the years, and reintroduced them to the world as the classics they had always been. If someone calls a song a prime candidate for the next Wes Anderson soundtrack (Guilty!), an instant and accurate picture is created. The soundtracks show a cohesion that’s rare in these days of we-want-a-hit soundtracks, where the earmarked smash doesn’t play until the final credits have started rolling, and they have become high points in the experience of watching Anderson’s movies. Now the American Laundromat Records label has collected covers of some of those high points on I Saved Latin! A Tribute to Wes Anderson, resulting in the best tribute album of the year.
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Jul 212013
 

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!

Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, was born Steven Georgiou 65 years ago today. His popularity exploded in the early-mid 1970s, and then, for all intents and purposes, he vanished from the music world for decades. Some of his disappearance can be attributed to changing musical tastes, but the main reason for the long disruption in his musical career was his conversion to Islam. Unlike his contemporary Richard Thompson, who converted to Islam a few years earlier, Stevens’ conversion not only led him to stop performing, but also embroiled him in controversy; his comments about the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie in 1989 caused a typical media overreaction, with calls for (and actual) destruction of Cat Stevens albums and the removal of a very good cover of “Peace Train” from later pressings of a 10,000 Maniacs album.

In the 1990s, Islam began a slow return to performing, initially focusing on Islamic music and issues; more recently, he has returned to secular music, often with charitable purposes. His appearances included performing at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s satirical pre-election “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” where he sang “Peace Train,” while Ozzy Osbourne sang “Crazy Train.”
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Jun 212013
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Early this year 10,000 Maniacs released Music From The Motion Picture, their first new release in 14 years, garnering some of the best reviews of their career; their lead singer, Mary Ramsey, is celebrating her 20th anniversary with the band this year. You can be excused for not knowing this, as many think the band (who hereinafter we’ll call 10KM) began and ended with the membership of Natalie Merchant, the vocalist and primary lyricist during their most commercially successful period. Indeed, Merchant is one of the key figures of 10KM’s legacy, and easily the best known, but it takes strong will, talent, and no small genius to maintain that legacy, and all credit to Ramsey for doing so.
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