Sep 072018
 

kilonovaWilliam Elliott Whitmore is 40, but he has always sounded like a much older man, with a deep, soulful voice that gives everything he sings a certain gravitas.  Think Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, or late Dylan, or most of all, Johnny Cash at his most apocalyptic.  If Whitmore sang “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” you’d still worry, and probably be unhappy.  I first heard Whitmore in 2006, opening for Lucero, at the Bowery Ballroom in New York, and was immediately transfixed by his timeless voice, dark songs, austere banjo, guitar and foot stomping accompaniment, and intense performance.

Born and raised on a 150-acre farm in southeastern Iowa, which he inherited from his parents and still owns, Whitmore grew up singing and playing guitar and banjo, with musical influences that started with country and moved toward punk as he got older.  At a certain point, though, Whitmore realized that he needed to focus on the folky, rustic, blues music that he grew up on–but with a punk edge.

So when Bloodshot Records released Kilonova, an album of covers of (mostly) lesser known songs from many musical eras, the question was, how would such a distinctive artist put his stamp on this block of diverse songs? “Diverse” barely begins to tell the story–artists range from Dock Boggs, to Johnny Cash,  to the Magnetic Fields to Bad Religion.

In short, the answer is, remarkably well.
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Mar 102017
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Scratch_My_Back

Until 2010’s Scratch My Back appeared, Peter Gabriel had been an artist more covered than covering – arguably a pity, given the cracked wistfulness of his croaky beauty. But I guess if you can write material of the quality and diversity that he has, why bother with someone else’s material? The problem was, Gabriel hadn’t been writing that kind of material – this was his first album in eight years.

So was Scratch My Back just, as covers projects can so often be, a stopgap sales pitch to keep his brand alive during a creative lull? Who knows? I think not and hope not, feeling this a deliberate if somewhat failed experiment on two levels. Flawed, maybe, rather than failed.
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Nov 242015
 
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As a songwriter, Stephin Merritt doesn’t need any testaments to his prolificness or originality – the sheer scope of his sweeping, three-disc Magnetic Fields album, “69 Love Songs,” on top of the rest of his discography, is testament enough. And yet, other artists continuously remind us of the enormous scope and degree of his influence with covers from throughout his oeuvre. Recently, Bully and FIDLAR demonstrated this with a cheery take on “Absolutely Cuckoo,” the opener to the aforementioned triple-album. Continue reading »

Mar 232012
 

We’ve said it before here at Cover Me, and we’re likely to say it again: Stephin Merritt has put a serious dent in creating a new American songbook without even really seeming to try that hard. The man throws pure poetry at listeners like candy from a firetruck at a fourth-of-July parade. Continue reading »

Jan 032012
 

Last April’s five-song set of Franz Ferdinand covers to celebrate Record Store Day was unlikely enough. LCD Soundsystem, Debbie Harry, and more came together to tackle some newer songs by the Scottish quartet. Even less likely: now all the covers have honest-to-goodness music videos. Continue reading »

Nov 012011
 

Last year to celebrate Halloween, Amanda Palmer held a Dresden Dolls reunion show in New York City. This year she hit the other coast, appearing on a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. She brought along Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields, Moby, and husband Neil Gaiman for a cover of Rocky Horror’s “Science Fiction/Double Feature.” Continue reading »