Dec 092011

When we think back to this year, we might remember 2011 as the year that the whole concept of the “cover album” became more fluid, and not always for the better. Thanks to the increased prominence of sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud, a cover album could be conceived, recorded, and shared in the space of a weekend. This didn’t necessarily lead to better cover albums, but it certainly led to more of them. They came in all formats – digital, CD, vinyl, and even cassette-only – and from all directions – labels, blogs, and even some magazines.

Which, we like to think, makes this list that much more helpful. In a year where the biggest single-artist cover album we got came from William Shatner, it proved a particular challenge to dig through the many obscure artists and assorted tributes and extract the gems. Gems there certainly were though, be they from newcomers making an impression with their favorite songs or old-timers honoring groups that influenced them decades ago. It may have taken a bit more work to find them, but the end result is as strong a selection as we’ve seen.

Continue to page 2 to read the list…

May 162011

In September 1973 a unique and mystical patch of Southern California was the site of a heroin overdose, a corpse-napping and a subsequent well-intended, but badly botched, cremation. The deceased was alt-country patron saint/ex-Byrd and Burrito Brother/friend of Keith Richards: Gram Parsons. Just as the Rolling Stones were initially inspired by the likes of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and Solomon Burke, there would be a period in the early 1970’s where Parsons would occupy Keith’s attention and briefly influence the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.

Given the broad sonic reach of the “alt-country” genre, one might expect that Paint It Black: An Alt Country Tribute to the Rolling Stones to be a fully plugged in, loud, proud and boisterous salute capturing all the sweat, swagger and energy of the group. But that would require leaning on the Mick Jagger side of the sound. Instead, producer Jim Sampas has chosen to throttle-down, and to lead with Keith (with the Grievous Angel as guardian). It results in an exceptionally cohesive and even-keeled album – a rarity among tribute compilations. That should come as no surprise, though, since we know Sampas for his work on other quality salutes: last year’s Subterranean Homesick Blues: A Tribute to Bob Dylan’s ‘Bringing It All Back Home’, Badlands: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’, and This Bird Has Flown: A Tribute To The Beatles ‘Rubber Soul’. Continue reading »