Jul 172018
 

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

nicki bluhm cover songs

Singer-songwriter Nicki Bluhm boasts a lot of experience with collaboration. Her new album To Rise You Gotta Fall (hear a track below) features two co-writes with her friend Ryan Adams, and in recent years she’s toured in Phil Lesh’s band and as part of the Incredible Stringdusters. When last I saw her live, she was singing “The Weight” in Levon’s barn as part of Amy Helm’s female-musicians collective Skylark.

So as someone who knows how different musicians and genres can blend to create unexpected classics, it’s no surprise she’s a fan of cover songs. She used to record amazing covers with her band while driving the van, and her new album includes a powerful blast through Dan Penn’s “I Hate You” (appropriate for a divorce record). And she digs deep in her cover recommendations below, going from a certain song you might remember from last month’s Best Beyoncé Covers countdown to a nod to a Grateful Dead song she has sung with Lesh himself. Check out Nicki’s picks below. Continue reading »

Dec 022014
 

In Defense takes a second look at a much-maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

Defense? I never knew Linda Ronstadt was under attack. OK, not true, I’ve known she tends to get many a sneery put-down from “real” musos, dissing both her voice and her choices of material, citing that “real” artists have way more credibility (and way fewer sales.) Beautiful but soulless, they call her and her voice, short on originality and innovation. A famous early putdown was around her being merely a competent backing singer, the irony being that ability potentially defines far greater technique than the relative ease of a solo performance, as those who have sung with her (Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, and legions more) have been more than happy to testify. I guess it stems down to generalizations around any successful artist, particularly if blessed also with photogenicity and famous boyfriends.
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Jun 232014
 

Virtually, every one of Linda Ronstadt’s hits were cover songs. A few of the genres she not only covered, but immersed herself in, during her extensive musical career include country, rock, jazz and traditional Mexican music. Though recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, sadly, due to Parkinson’s disease, Ronstadt is no longer able to sing. Continue reading »

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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Apr 232013
 

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!

Evan Dando gets a lot of flack for being the poster boy of college-friendly rock in the early- to mid-’90s. He was the subject of focus to Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill/Le Tigre/wife of Ad Rock from the Beastie Boys), who wrote a particularly intense zine piece about him, and he was also the target of Steve Albini and Nirvana, who pranked him pretty good. However, his choice of covers as a solo artist and as lead Lemonhead reveal that behind his good looks, he also has a deep appreciation of crafty songwriting, as well as a good-natured and self-deprecating sense of humor. Continue reading »

Sep 062011
 

Had he lived, tomorrow would have been Buddy Holly’s 75th birthday, and today marks the release date of the second full-length Buddy Holly tribute of the past ten weeks. Due to the proximity of the release dates, the two collections are destined to be linked together and compared. On the surface, similarities abound: both Rave On Buddy Holly (review here) and Listen To Me: Buddy Holly feature big name stars and a bevy of classic rockers. Rave On boasts Paul McCartney, Nick Lowe, Patti Smith and Lou Reed while Listen To Me offers Stevie Nicks, Brian Wilson, Jackson Browne and Ringo Starr. The differences lie in the roster of contemporary contributors. Where Rave On is stocked with indie cred, Listen To Me relies on a list of chart-topping pop stars.

Less innovative than its slightly older cousin, Listen To Me: Buddy Holly has a few oddities that tend to tarnish an otherwise pretty solid compilation. First on the list of disappointments is Linda Ronstadt’s 1976 Hasten Down The Wind version of “That’ll Be The Day.” Really? Does a 35 year-old song get a pass on an otherwise “new” collection simply because the legendary Peter Asher produced both projects? Did they think we wouldn’t notice? Continue reading »