For many, Courtney Barnett seems to be the heir apparent to Kim Deal as the coolest woman in rock. It’s fair to say the ‘intelligent slacker’ look and sound of Kim and the scene she came from has certainly informed Barnett as a writer and a performer.
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.
When your share your name with a father who’s a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame… when you grew up living next door to George Jones and Tammy Wynette… when you have Shel Silverstein for a mentor… a life in the music business would seem preordained. That’s what Bobby Bare Jr. has made for himself, from duetting with his father in 1973 to selling t-shirts and working lights at concerts to becoming a full-time musician when he was about thirty. It’s been a hard life [the documentary Don’t Follow Me (I’m Lost) follows him and his band down the long road of touring], but it’s paying off. This year alone he stole the show at SXSW’s Lou Reed tribute with his take on “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’,” and he released his very first cover of a song of his father’s, “Shame On Me,” saying that he “figured after 8 of my own albums I can’t be accused of ‘coat tailing’ at this point.”
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 Beatles is its official title, but everyone calls it the White Album, after its minimalist cover design – the group name embossed, a stamped serial number, and nothing else. Less than 18 months removed from Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles were an entirely different band, and the cracks in their base were multiplying too fast for anyone’s comfort. But the songs begun in Rishikesh kept coming, the boys kept playing, and the end result was a great big glorious mess – and that last word is one of the biggest keys to the White Album’s appeal.
The sheer diversity of the White Album makes it an ideal subject for an all-cover compilation. Phish famously covered it live in its entirety; many Beatles tribute bands have done the same. Here on Cover Me, we’ve put together thirty different artists coming at these songs thirty different ways, representing multiple countries and multiple genres. It’ll take four days to get through them all, one for each side of the original vinyl – but if you’re up for it, so are we. Let’s get on that BOAC flight from Miami Beach and see where it takes us…
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!
My mother raised me on Dylan. In my house when I was a kid, there was the holy trinity — which was Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, with Bob sitting center. — Glen Hansard
Neutral Milk Hotel. Townes Van Zandt. Britney Spears. Yes, Britney Spears. Glen Hansard has been covering other people’s songs for 30 years, from the street corner to the stage. His music career started early, stemming from a deal with his headmaster when he was 13: he could leave school and follow his musical heart; if it didn’t work out in a year, he would be welcomed back with open arms. So off he busked.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
There’s a feel to the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” that can be hard to pinpoint. There’s the Caribbean element to it, the literal storytelling of swimming in the ocean with sea creatures, but there’s no island feel to go with the lyrics; there’s the tricks, the spinning, the looming possibility of one’s empty head collapsing, and yet none of the nauseous dread that these images evoke. Instead, fittingly, the feel is one of distance – everything is there, all those lyrics and thoughts laid out, and yet they’re not what the song is about. It’s about a theme, a feeling, an environment, a difficult-to-pinpoint quality that brings the listener in. It’s a song that’s easy to cover and yet incredibly difficult to cover well, a song where a good cover is measured in its ability to capture something intangible.
Some artists, however, manage to capture it (or something close to it), and leave us not just enjoying a song but wondering the very question posed in the title.
Back Track looks back at an old cover that deserves a new spotlight.
The Pixies released their last studio album, Trompe le Monde, in 1991. With an album cover of eyeballs, and several songs exploring the world of sci-fi, it seems an unlikely place to hear a Jesus and Mary Chain song, but nestled within the tracks is an explosive cover of “Head On.”