Jul 122018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

jon cleary covers

Six years ago on a visit to New Orleans, I traveled to the legendary Tipitina’s club for a Professor Longhair tribute show. I know most of the headliners, at least loosely: Dr. John of course, plus Meters bassist George Porter Jr. and Marsalis clan patriarch Ellis. The one guy I’d never heard of, though, blew me away. His name was Jon Cleary, and I appeared to be the only person in the room ignorant of his work.

Cleary is a New Orleans icon, a boogie-woogie piano savant following in the Dr. John and Allen Toussaint tradition (he’s played with both). NPR has called him “pure New Orleans,” while Southern Living wrote that “the pianist’’s name is synonymous with his city.” He’s got a new album Dyna-Mite out this week, Crescent City funk at its finest. Here’s the title track:

To celebrate the new album, Jon Cleary told us about his five favorite cover songs. His selections travel the world, but keep coming back to New Orleans. Just like Cleary himself. Continue reading »

Jun 182018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

fantastic negrito cover songs

In the year 2000, the musician known as Fantastic Negrito almost died. A car accident put him in a three-week coma before requiring months of brutal physical therapy. When he finally got out of the hospital, permanent damage to his guitar-playing hand forced him to retire from music. He eventually moved to Oakland and became an urban farmer growing vegetables and, as his new bio artfully puts it, “other, more profitable, green matter.”

A lot has happened since then. He eventually returned to music, and quickly achieved the sort of milestones he never did the first time around. He won the first-ever NPR Tiny Desk Contest in 2015, earned a longtime champion and mentor in Chris Cornell, and, just last year, won his first Grammy award, for Best Contemporary Blues Album. But the accident’s after-effects linger in his mind on new album Please Don’t Be Dead, which features a real photo from his hospital stay as its cover. Watch the music video for single “The Duffler”: Continue reading »

Jul 012016
 

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

imagine

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Lennon’s first solo album, got many rave reviews and deserved them all, but there are people who aren’t comfortable witnessing someone baring his soul, and Lennon wanted to reach them too. So he made sure his next album, Imagine, sweetened his message, even as he kept it intact. “Plastic Ono with chocolate coating,” he later called it. By lightening his touch and assuring the songs landed in his fans’ hearts rather than crashing into them, Lennon was rewarded with a commercial success, not to mention the title track that came to be his signature song.
Continue reading »

Oct 252014
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Were Ray Charles alive, he’d be 84 today. Not a ridiculous conceit – Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, and Clint Eastwood all did the same earlier this year. Which only goes to show that it’s still hard sometimes to come to grips with a world without Ray. But it would be much, much harder to live in a world without his music.
Continue reading »

Nov 302011
 

Amy Winehouse’s new rarities album Lioness offered three never-before-heard covers: “Our Love Will Come,” “The Girl from Ipanema,” and Leon Russell’s “A Song for You.” We’ve heard the first two already, and now we have the last. It’s an emotional soul-jazz run through the oft-covered classic and, barring any future archive releases, may be the last cover we ever hear her do. Continue reading »

Apr 282011
 

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

The Beatles’ pilgrimage to India in 1968 led to an outpouring of new material from John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, all of which competed for space on their new album (the White Album). Though it didn’t make the cut, Lennon’s “Child of Nature” reappeared in 1971 on Imagine with different lyrics and a new title: “Jealous Guy.” The song stands as one of Lennon’s best, the desperate plea of a jealous lover who realizes that he may have gone too far, pushing away the very person he wants near. Continue reading »