Mar 022018

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

emel mathlouthi covers

We first discovered Emel Mathlouthi at last year’s Northside Festival. But let me be clear: when I say “discovered,” I hardly mean she was unknown. In fact, we were very late on the bandwagon; the Tunisian singer-songwriter is an international star. A few years back she became known as the “Voice of the Arab Spring” after one of her song’s became an anthem for the revolution. She even performed it at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2015:

As you can see in that video, her original songs are stunning. Her most recent album, Ensen, was my personal favorite album of 2017, and today she releases a follow-up set of inventive remixes of those songs titled Ensenity. You can get a taste over at The Fader.

With a voice like that, you won’t be surprised to learn she can deliver some pretty stunning covers too. She can belt “Hallelujah” with the best of ‘em, and has equally beautiful takes on David Bowie and Björk under her belt. She was even kind enough to put together a pretty mind-blowing version of “All Along the Watchtower” for my book party. It’s the rare cover that owes next to nothing to Jimi Hendrix: Continue reading »

Oct 232017
cover me book party

A little over a week ago, Paste Magazine held an amazing release party for my new book Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time. The event featured exclusive covers of songs from the book performed by some of our favorite musicians: Emel Mathlouthi (one of our Northside Fest finds this year), Eli Paperboy Reed, and Anthony D’Amato. Paste live-streamed the full thing from their New York studio, but if you missed it, now you can watch the clips online.

Mathlouthi and D’Amato both chose Bob Dylan songs – appropriately enough, as Dylan is the only songwriter who gets two chapters in my book. Mathlouthi did the rare “All Along the Watchtower” cover that owes little to Hendrix, her gorgeous voice soaring high above a churning guitar rhythm. And D’Amato picked the book’s final chapter, following in the footsteps of Adele, Garth Brooks, and Billy Joel by beautifully covering Bob’s modern-day standard “Make You Feel My Love.” Continue reading »

Jun 132017
northside fest

For decades, there have been two dominant names in the music-discovery festival game: SXSW in Austin and CMJ in NYC. While the typical festival books the biggest acts they can afford, these two deliberately focus on a plethora of new and obscure artists looking for their big break. Last year, though, one of those twin pillars collapsed with CMJ’s mysterious disappearance) amidst all manner of controversy and turmoil).

Brooklyn’s more recent Northside Festival was already positioning itself as a CMJ Jr. when we went last June, focusing on showcasing hundreds of up-and-comers on rather than a few big names. Well, there’s no “Jr.” any more. With CMJ gone, Northside became New York’s default replacement.

It’s ready to fill the role though, bringing a wide array of artists from across the country to Williamsburg for one weekend. As we did last year, we picked our five favorite discoveries we’ve never written about here before, with a cover from each. Continue reading »