Dec 022014

In Defense takes a second look at a much-maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

Defense? I never knew Linda Ronstadt was under attack. OK, not true, I’ve known she tends to get many a sneery put-down from “real” musos, dissing both her voice and her choices of material, citing that “real” artists have way more credibility (and way fewer sales.) Beautiful but soulless, they call her and her voice, short on originality and innovation. A famous early putdown was around her being merely a competent backing singer, the irony being that ability potentially defines far greater technique than the relative ease of a solo performance, as those who have sung with her (Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, and legions more) have been more than happy to testify. I guess it stems down to generalizations around any successful artist, particularly if blessed also with photogenicity and famous boyfriends.
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Covers albums are commonly filled with songs that have special meaning to the band and often had an impact on the members. “Break-Up album” usually refers to a collection of songs dedicated to the end of a recent, often painful, relationship. Brooklyn band Quiet Loudly missed both of those memos. Their album is filled with songs chosen at the whim of a few fans who pledged a certain amount on the previous album’s Kickstarter, and the “Break Up” referred to is the band itself. Continue reading »

Stepping outside of comfort zones is an interesting test for musicians. Do they only do one thing well or can they sound authentic when they move into other genres? CMT Crossroads recently paired Kacey Musgraves and Katy Perry for a set of each other’s songs and a couple of covers. It may look like a battle of the lightweights, but Musgraves revealed a relaxed stage presence and effortless, clear vocals while Perry’s voice sounded forced, at times, and she seemed to be trying a little too hard, at least on the country tunes. Continue reading »

Those Darlins

Is there really anything more punk than Dolly Parton? The Queen of Country continues to be one of music’s greatest trailblazers, crossing genres and leading the way for female artists in a male-dominated industry. She’s a philanthropist, a businesswoman, and one hell of a songwriter. And if all that wasn’t cool enough, she recently revealed that she’s covered in tattoos.

As another installment of A.V. Club and Honda’s excellent series “Pioneering,” Dolly’s signature tune “Jolene” got a total rock makeover from Nashville charmers Those Darlins. It’s hard to ruin such a great song, but Those Darlins took the reigns and made it all their own with a delightful mash of punk, country and rock and roll.
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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!

As of today, Billy Joel is eligible for Social Security. So, now that his money woes are assuredly a thing of the past, let’s get to celebrating his 65th birthday in the accomplished style he really and truly deserves.
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Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).

Today’s question comes from Cover Me staffer Mike Misch: What cover song shouldn’t work as well as it does?
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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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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!

And then there was one. With his brother Robin’s passing in May, Barry Gibb became the sole surviving Bee Gee; today marks the first time since he was three years old that he doesn’t have a brother Gibb around to see him celebrate his birthday.

“I will live on the music,” he tweeted to his fans, “and no matter what stage I’m standing on my three brothers will be standing there with me.” Continue reading »

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