Mar 242015

Let’s get this out of the way first: Elliott Smith’s songs are not easy to cover. This isn’t necessarily related to virtuosity, but might even be related to the exact opposite. Smith’s voice (squeaky, usually double-tracked, always on the verge of slipping off key) was something that he used as a weapon, tearing right into the heart of his music. Pairing that voice with soul-baring lyrics and melodies that never strayed too far from the Beatles and Beach Boys school of pop music, Smith carved out a segment of the singer-songwriter genre that was all his own.

That being said, Seth Avett (of the Avett Brothers) and Jessica Lea Mayfield have a decent go at it on the informatively titled Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith. Upon first listen, the album’s most glaring problem (for Smith fans, at least) becomes apparent: most of the selections fall very close the originals. “Between the Bars,” probably the most covered song of Smith’s songs (over-covered, if you ask this reviewer), hits all of the original’s beats. “Angeles,” too, is played (albeit a little slower) like a straight transfer of the Either/Or cut. Though, this does raise a question: what’s the alternative? How do you rearrange “Angeles” (perhaps the best candidate for the most wholly representative song in the Elliott Smith catalogue) without losing what makes it special? I imagine these are the questions that Avett and Mayfield asked themselves, too – presumably without finding any satisfactory answers.
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Apr 032012

Considering the longevity and large amount of musicians that have been a part of Brian Jonestown Massacre, it is a wonder that we haven’t seen more covers from its catalog. The few that we do hear, however, such as Jessica Lea Mayfield‘s rendition of “(David Bowie I Love You) Since I Was Six,” deliver. Continue reading »

Aug 012011

Two weeks ago we looked at the Avett Brothers’ best covers. At the same time, guitarist Seth Avett was busy covering Elliott Smith live in Oakland. He did so before back in May with “Angeles,” but this time he teamed up with the tour’s opening act, Jessica Lea Mayfield, to turn Smith’s “Twilight” from a basement whisper into a countrified, though still melancholy, duet. Continue reading »

Jul 192011

As we mentioned yesterday, SPIN magazine celebrates the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind this year with a special issue featuring interviews, recollections, and, best of all, a full-album tribute. Dare we say it, it’s even better than the one we did. Continue reading »