Jan 312019
 
best cover songs january
Beck – Tarantula (Colourbox cover)

Few expected the movie Roma to be as big a hit as it was (it’s tied for the most Oscar nominations). Even Sony must not have, as they’re just getting around to releasing a soundtrack two months after release – and as Music Inspired By The Film Roma, i.e. must that doesn’t actually appear in the film. But Beck’s beautiful cover of 4AD group Colourbox arrives better late than never. Accompanied by an orchestra and Leslie Feist on backing vocals, he’s never sounded more like Peter Gabriel. Continue reading »

Jan 222019
 

In the back of Houston’s folk music club The Sand Mountain Coffee House in the late 1960s hung a mural in full view of the artists performing. It paid tribute to five of the best songwriters of the day: Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Don Sanders, and Mickey Newbury. It was to this spot – where Townes lived upstairs, where Jerry Jeff wrote “Mr. Bojangles” – that Steve Earle made a pilgrimage from San Antonio in order to meet Van Zandt. Earle not only met the troubled troubadour, but began a life-long friendship that resulted in naming his firstborn son Justin Townes Earle, and, in 2009, the release of Earle’s tribute album Townes, covering many of his greatest songs.

After meeting Townes, Steve left Houston and headed for Nashville in search of another one of his idols, Guy Clark. He found him in the back room of a bar playing pool. Here, history seemed to repeat itself as the two met and became very fast friends with Earle quickly joining Guy’s band as the bass player. And now, in 2019, ten years after the release of Townes, Steve Earle is set to release a set of his favorite Guy Clark songs, simply called Guy. Continue reading »

Feb 022018
 
strombo show covers

As an avant-garde jazz-influenced album, David Bowie’s final record Blackstar would seem damn-near uncoverable (unless you’re an avante-garde jazz band). But the songs keep getting covered, and by some surprising artists. Sting covered “Lazarus.” Nine Inch Nails covered “I Can’t Give Everything Away.” Amanda Palmber and Anna Calvi covered the title track. (So did Car Seat Headrest and Hiatus Kaiyote’s Nai Palm, blending it with Radiohead, no less).

The latest comes from indie-rock vets Spoon, who tackled “I Can’t Give Anything Away” on The Strombo Show, a radio program that is quickly become Canada’s answer to other international cover-shows BBC Live Lounge and Triple J “Like a Version.” Britt Daniel’s understated vocals deliver the quiet melody and bigger chorus perfectly, but the secret star of this stripped-down version might be pianist Alex Fischel. Needless to say, it sounds quite different than Nine Inch Nails’ take on the tune.

And, while we’re at it, here’s a bunch of other Strombo Show covers from recent episodes too. Continue reading »

Jan 172018
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

steve earle covers

Steve Earle turns 63 today. He’s one of the all-time great Americana/roots-rock/alt-country/whatever-you-want-to-call-it songwriters, and one who has successfully stepped out of the Nashville hit machine grind he started in to one of those “distinguished statesman” careers many of his Guitar Town-era peers no doubt envy.

In addition to his own songwriting, he records fantastic covers. His tribute album to early mentor Townes Van Zandt was quite moving, and the early-rock covers on his album with Shawn Colvin in 2016 were terrific (check out “You Were On My Mind”). He gave The Wire a season’s theme song covering Tom Waits’ “Way Down in the Hole” while acting on the show too as a recovering addict (hardly a stretch). And, my personal two favorites, he delivers arguably the definitive versions of Warren Zevon’s “Reconsider Me” and Randy Newman’s “Rednecks.”

But it’s his birthday, so we’ll let him take a well-earned break. Instead, we’ve rounded up our favorite covers of other people doing his songs. His recordings make ideal cover sources in the same way Bob Dylan’s or Tom Waits’ do: brilliant songs delivered by limited-appeal voices. It’s no surprise that “better” (or at least less divisive) country singers cover Earle constantly; Emmylou Harris alone has covered a half dozen of his songs. So we’ll start there. Continue reading »

Dec 062016
 
best cover songs

Over the past few months, we’ve been hard at work making our list of The Best Cover Songs of 2016. Narrowing it down to 50 caused some excruciating choices, that’s how many great covers there were this year.

We’ll be posting the full list next week (and “Best Cover Albums” this Thursday), but as a little appetizer, here are our Honorable Mentions, covers we loved and still wanted to spotlight as among the best 2016 had to offer. Continue reading »

Nov 252015
 

joyTo all reports, Ewan MacColl was a difficult man. It’s perhaps hard to believe that a man who could write as sensitive a song as “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (for Peggy Seeger, Pete’s half-sister and MacColl’s third wife), the song made into a cross-genre standard by Roberta Flack in 1972, could be so uniformly feared and vilified, yet still admired. I guess it’s the usual case of ignoring the man and embracing the music, and this man, who arguably invented the UK folk boom of the late 1950s and early ’60s, had little interest in embracing any of the young acolytes drawn to his flame – he called Bob Dylan’s work “tenth-rate drivel.”

Born James Miller in Manchester, his life was a series of reinventions, as he became a communist rabble-rouser in his teens, then a George Bernard Shaw-admired  playwright and, in his mid-30’s, self-acclaimed champion of a fiercely curated folk idiom, wherein such modern anachronisms as make-up for women (and possibly women in general) were decried and denied, while Dylan, Paul Simon, and others of those young acolytes were freely liberating the repertoire into their own.
Continue reading »