As the crumbled fliers and crushed PBR cans across the Lower East Side and Williamsburg will attest, another CMJ has come and gone. In a year that didn’t seem to quite have the star power leading into it, hundreds of under-the-radar bands had a reasonably level playing field on which to try to impress to industry and tastemaker types who swarm the city’s diviest clubs. Here are five standout acts we caught, complete with a great cover each has done in the past.
Singer-songwriter and musician Rickie Lee Jones has spent nearly 35 years carving a unique path that has blended rock, pop, blues, R&B, and jazz. From her early success with the hit 1979 song “Chuck E’s in Love” to the 2000s where she experimented with beats, loops and spoken word, Jones is the embodiment of the evolving artist. Her latest effort, The Devil You Know is a collection of covers of classic rock tracks that read as a greatest hits list.
The Hollows are a roots-rock group of multi-instrumentalists; a freewheeling hootenany of a band. A veritable junkyard of mandolins, banjos, guitars, accordions, horns, harmonicas, and various other musical doodads are in constant rotation. With no frontman (or six frontmen), everyone writes and arranges material, creating a diverse and uniquely blended sound.
The sun was out all day on Sunday as thousands of music fans gathered at Ocean Beach on San Francisco’s Great Highway to pay tribute to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival founder and local financier Warren Hellman. Hellman, who died Dec. 18 at age 77 after a long battle with leukemia, was an avid banjo player who gave the gift of the free, three-day music festival to millions over the last decade.
Every year, interfaith suicide prevention charity To Write Love on Her Arms rounds up some of their many musician supporters for a fund- and awareness-raising concert in Orlando. Last week, Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional), David Bazan (Pedro the Lion), William Fitzsimmons, Noah and Abby Gundersen (The Courage), and Mariah McManus performed short sets, then came back out for the custom sing-along encore. As happens in 40% of such situations, they chose Bob Dylan/The Band’s “I Shall Be Released.”
Last month, Wilco invited friend of the band/Jeff Tweedy collaborator Mavis Staples and opening act Nick Lowe onstage for a Chicago show for a rousing cover of “The Weight.” Some shaky cell footage emerged, but now we have something better: a video of the impromptu supergroup rehearsing the cover backstage at the Civic Opera House.