Reviews of Son Little’s music tend to note all the genres he covers. He’s been compared to Marvin Gaye and to Tom Waits – in the same article. Though he certainly has a soulful voice, there’s a lot more to this former Roots collaborator than the limiting label “neo-soul” might encompass. And his wide tastes is showcased in the songs he’s picked to cover recently, from Drake to Led Zeppelin to, most recently, Bruce Springsteen.
The whole reason for a good cover to exist at all is that it takes the original source material, gets to the heart of the song, and extracts the most important elements, which are then refashioned in the image of the cover artist. There must be an element of band or artist doing the covering within the cover itself; otherwise it’s simply a note-for-note recreation of a superior (often iconically so) performance. Furthermore, there’s little in the way of artistry behind strict recreations of popular music. This approach is little more than an impression that ultimately serves little to no purpose aside from existing to remind listeners how much better the original was, is and always will be.
For a band like Train – whose music has served as the backdrop for innumerable cloying “romantic” moments in film, television and perhaps even real life – to take on the decidedly heavier sounds of Led Zeppelin would initially seem like something of a joke. What qualifies the group behind such saccharine megahits like “Drops of Jupiter” and the insufferable “Soul Sister” to cover a band like Led Zeppelin, let alone replicate an entire album? Well, it seems that when you reach the level Train has, you can do pretty much whatever you want and no one will question you.
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.
“Our music is loud, fun, and it’s supposed to make you feel good.”
That’s straight from the mouth of Arleigh Kincheloe, the lead singer and Sister Sparrow to the collection of Dirty Birds that backs her up in this amazing rock/soul/funk band. Arleigh and her brother Jackson, who plays the prominently-featured harmonica for the ensemble, came from the Catskills to the band’s base of operations, Brooklyn. They formed in 2008, and by 2010 they had their self-titled debut album available. Since then, they’ve been road warriors, hitting venues and festivals all over the country. They’ve won listeners over the old-fashioned way: putting on the best damn shows they can and bringing to music to every pair of ears they can find.
“Any time I take a cover and wear it on my sleeve, it’s because it had something good to do with my life and still marks a time in my life when I needed that song more than ever.” – Jeff Buckley
You and I is a posthumously released collection of ten songs (eight of which are covers) Jeff Buckley chose as a showcase for Columbia Records in 1993. They have lived in the vaults of Columbia Records for the past twenty-three years. Up until the point of these recordings, Buckley’s career was that of a cover artist, gradually working on his own material, performing often at venues in Lower Manhattan, such as Sin-é. Despite vast interest, Buckley was apprehensive about signing with a record label. Eventually he signed with Columbia and recorded what would be his only studio album, the otherworldly Grace, in 1994. An album David Bowie chose as a desert island album, an album whose release saw Bob Dylan knighting Buckley as “one of the great song writers of this decade,” and an album that convinced Rolling Stone that Buckley was one of the greatest singers of all time.
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Ben Harper is the kind of artist who’s all too easy to miss. He’s not particularly flashy. He doesn’t make headlines for terrible behavior. In fact, he does the opposite: he’s involved in several charities supporting conservation, scholarship, and feeding the hungry. These are wonderful qualities for a human being and an artist to have, but they don’t necessarily help that artist stay in the public eye. What Harper also does, however, is bring his own brand of American music to fans around the world. During his career, he’s experimented with rock, folk, gospel, blues, country, reggae, and jazz, and proved himself equally adept at them all. He’s consistently delivered quality music for over two decades. It may be easy to miss him, but once discovered, he’s impossible to forget.
We’ve already finished the big year-end stories – Best Cover Songs and Best Cover Albums – but here’s a little postscript to take us into the new year. Maybe there’s something here you missed: covers of every song on a classic record in our “Full Albums” series, a deep dive into unusual reinterpretations of a particular hit in our “Five Good Covers” series, or just a bunch of MP3s of Dylan covering Sinatra over forty years.
Cover Me’s Most Popular Posts of 2015
1. Full Albums: Bob Marley & the Wailers’ ‘Legend’
2. Download Four Decades of Bob Dylan’s Frank Sinatra Covers
3. Full Albums: The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’
4. Five Good Covers: Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears)
5. Full Albums: Wilco’s ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’
6. Five Good Covers: The Logical Song (Supertramp)
7. Full Albums: ‘Led Zeppelin III’
8. The Best Cover Songs of 2015
9. Five Good Covers: Rocket Man (Elton John)
10. Full Albums: XTC’s ‘Skylarking’
See you in 2016!