Aug 252013
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Forty-six years old. In some ways, it’s hard to believe that Jeff Tweedy, the songwriting genius behind Wilco, has hit his late forties. On the other hand, think back, way back through his recorded output. When Wilco released their first album 18 years ago, Tweedy was already a groundbreaker, having co-founded Uncle Tupelo with Jay Farrar eight years earlier. Together, they practically invented the genre of alt-country before their acrimonious split, when Tweedy was just 26 years old.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Tweedy assembled Wilco out of the ashes of Tupelo’s touring band and slowly built a following. The band teetered on the edge of disaster when they presented their masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to their label, only to have it rejected. Instead of going back into the studio to record a boy-band album or whatever the hell the label wanted, they bought the master tapes back and walked. Eventually they signed to a subsidiary of the same company (go figure), and the album came out and went gold. From there on, Tweedy & Company have continued to push the sonic envelope and remain just as vital as ever.
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Apr 052012
 

Bluegrass mavericks Punch Brothers have been known to cover artists as diverse as The Strokes, D’Angelo, Josh Ritter and Radiohead during their live shows, so it seems logical for them to participate in the latest edition of A.V. Club’s Undercover video series, which recruits touring musical acts to cover a song selected from their occasionally quirky master list. While this format has birthed some rather silly pairings in the past, including They Might Be Giants’ raucous version of the seminal “Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba, Chris Thile and co. show impressive cross-genre dexterity with their irony-free version of The Cars‘ classic “Just What I Needed.” Continue reading »

Feb 162012
 

Punch Brothers, one of the predominant groups of the recent “newgrass” acoustic revival, have always had a penchant for cross-genre experimentation, incorporating jazz song forms, Bach sonatas and rock covers into their live sets and albums. For their brand-new album Who’s Feeling Young Now?, Chris Thile, Noam Pickelny and company have finally decided to record their cover of Radiohead‘s electronic masterpiece “Kid A,” which has been the closing song of their live set since 2009. On stage they usually transition from “Kid A” into their cover of Gillian Welch’s much more traditional and upbeat “Wayside/Back In Time,” contrasting the two styles, but on the album it appears on its own, proving its worth as more than a live novelty. Continue reading »

Feb 082012
 

Celebrating their 50th anniversary The Chieftains will mark the occasion with the release of Voice of Ages on February 21. The album features the torch-bearers of traditional Irish music collaborating with  stars from the worlds of indie-rock (Bon Iver, The Decemberists, The Low Anthem), country and Americana (The Civil Wars, Pistol Annies, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Punch Brothers), Irish and Scottish folk (Imelda May, Lisa Hannigan, Paolo Nutini) and more. Continue reading »

May 232011
 

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

When a musical group is defined by a genre, it often boxes them in and alienates them from an expanding fan base. A certain type of music usually lends a certain type of music lover. If we were to write “bluegrass,” some may just stop reading at this point and turn up their nose. But others might see this term and immediately scroll down below to take a listen. The NYC quintet Punch Brothers is a bluegrass group for both of these types of music lovers, and for those somewhere in-between: those who aren’t really sure if bluegrass is their thing, let alone bluegrass cover songs. Trust us – it is. Continue reading »

May 092011
 

Bluegrass ingenue Sarah Jarosz releases her second album, Follow Me Down, in a couple of weeks. Remarkably young – she turns 20 later this month – she performs with a maturity well beyond her years. Her new LP includes a couple of covers, most notably Radiohead’s “The Tourist,” on which she partners with the Punch Brothers. Continue reading »