Aug 262016
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

hem

Writing an “Under the Radar” piece inevitably forces the writer to address the elephant in the room: Why is an artist you like enough to spend time researching and crafting a piece about considered to be “Under the Radar” by the vast majority of people? Hem, a band that formed in 2002 and sporadically released music until last year, would seem to have had so many advantages – intelligent songwriting, fine musicianship, a distinctive sound and, maybe most importantly, a lead vocalist with a scarily gorgeous voice. Seven of their songs were used in national commercials for Liberty Mutual Insurance, a classic Christmas cover was used in an ad for Tiffany’s, and other songs have appeared in television shows. They created music, which was well received by The New York Times, for a production of Twelfth Night for New York’s legendary Shakespeare In The Park program, featuring Anne Hathaway, Audra McDonald and Hamish Linklater. They were touted by outlets as diverse as NPR and Entertainment Weekly. Yet it appears that radar just doesn’t pick them up.
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Jun 112013
 

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

The common wisdom is that Elvis Costello’s debut My Aim is True was an “angry young man” album, a blast of punk and new wave, and that Costello’s music matured and diversified as he aged. Like much conventional wisdom, it is wrong. To the contrary, the 12 (or 13 — see below) songs on the album are wildly diverse, and in addition to the punkier rockers, the songs foreshadow many of the stylistic experiments that Costello has engaged in over his long and distinguished career.
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Dec 122011
 

Chris Whitley was one of those artists his fellow musicians adored (Springsteen, Petty, and Richards among them) that never got the fame he deserved. He died of lung cancer in 2005, but Little Silver keep his legacy alive on a new cover. The husband and wife duo of Steve Curtis (of Hem) and Erika Simonian tackled Whitley’s “Dirt Floor.” The duo turn the track from a bluesy folk song into an intimate bedroom ballad and we’re pleased to premiere it below. Continue reading »

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 »

Feb 142011
 

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

Tunnel of Love may be the strangest record in Bruce Springsteen‘s catalog, and that’s saying a lot. Though he released it while still touring with the E Street Band, its sound signified a marked departure from the driving rock of his earlier albums. Indeed, although some E-Streeters dropped by to lend backing vocals or keyboard parts to certain tracks, Springsteen recorded Tunnel mostly by himself. In a sense, the album provided a sequel to Nebraska, except that sequel packed itself to the brim with synthesizers and 1980s production.

Lyrically, though, Tunnel of Love provided some of Springsteen’s sharpest writing to date. Though covers of the album’s songs flow as plentifully as those for Born in the USA or Darkness on the Edge of Town, these tunes prove especially attractive to musicians in the folk, country and singer-songwriter milieu. You won’t find any heavy metal covers of “Brilliant Disguise,” but you might be taken aback at the number of top-selling country artists who took a crack at “Tougher than the Rest.” Continue reading »

Nov 112010
 

The story of the modern Veterans Day begins in 1953 at a Kansas shoe store. Up until then, every November 11th Americans celebrated Armistice Day, a holiday commemorating the signing of the treaty that ended World War I. By the 1950s though, with a second World War come and gone, folks were less keen on remembering a peace that – oh yeah – didn’t work so well.

Enter Alfred King. The shoe salesman in Emporia, Kansas (2000 Census population: 26,760) had a son fight in World War II and decided that veterans, who didn’t die (after all, they had Memorial Day), deserved celebrating more than a failed treaty. He campaigned tirelessly to change the holiday, starting at home; in 1953, Emporia became the first town in America to celebrate Veterans Day. The idea caught on and, with help from a local congressman, the issue moved to Washington. On October 8, 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower officially changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. All thanks to one small-town shoe salesman. Continue reading »