Mar 172016
 

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!

Dolly-Parton

 
Dolly Parton is one of the true legends of country & western music. Half a century after the release of her first true C&W album, 1966’s Hello, I’m Dolly, she’s announced a 60-city North American tour that will promote her upcoming 2-CD set Pure & Simple, containing both new material and greatest hits from throughout her career. For all her years in the musical industry, Dolly has never forgotten her roots, and she continues to perform at a high level at an age when most artists are tired of the road.

When looking back over her career, it’s clear that she’s an original, and her critical and commercial success as a songwriter reflects that. But like any true great, she knows the value of a good cover song. Millions and millions of dollars, in the case of Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly’s “I Will Always Love You,” but the cover songs that Dolly herself records have worth that goes beyond the bank. She’s had huge success with covers in each of the last several decades. Here are some of her best.
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Sep 132011
 

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!

Claremont, CA’s The Mountain Goats began as the alter-ego of singer-songwriter John Darnielle, who’d record raw versions of songs on cassettes to distribute to friends in the early 1990s. Since then, Darnielle’s project has added a few members and become a major force in the indie world. Albums like The Sunset Tree, Get Lonely and most recently All Eternals Deck have received serious critical praise and become favorites among the college radio crowd. One might guess that’s primarily because of the compelling figure cut by Darnielle; his mix of brutal honesty and quirky humor speaks to listeners much in the way an artist like Ben Folds does, although instead of a massive piano between Darnielle and his audience, there’s usually just an acoustic guitar. Continue reading »

Aug 232011
 

Jerry Leiber, the famed songwriter, passed away yesterday at 78. He was the lyricist in the songwriting duo Leiber and Stoller while Mike Stoller handled the composing. Together they penned such classic pop songs as “Hound Dog,” “Kansas City,” “Stand by Me,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Yakety Yak,” among many other hits which were originally performed by artists like Elvis Presley, The Drifters, and Ben E.King. In 1995 Leiber and Stoller’s catalog of hits was turned into the Broadway musical Smokey Joe’s Cafe, which was nominated for seven Tony Awards. The duo was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Continue reading »

Aug 082011
 

Festivals often entice artists to perform covers. What better way to convert the uninitiated than by drawing them in with a song they know and then (ideally) hooking them by transforming it into your sound? This past weekend’s Lollapalooza, though, seemed to offer even more cover performances than usual. Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune even christened Saturday “#80snight” to keep track of all the ‘80s covers performed. Continue reading »

Feb 102011
 

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!

Engimatic, eclectic and unpredictable, Neil Young has laid the groundwork for all singer-songwriters over his 48-year career. Covering Young is almost a rite of passage for folk, roots and Americana artists, and we’ve featured quite a few here in the past. Despite ebbs and flows in the quality of his output (Trans, anyone?), many cite Young as an example of a fiercely independent artist, dedicated to fully exploring his craft, forgiving some of these bumps in the road.

Perhaps, then, it’s not surprising that Young has not covered many songs himself. He started out, as all musicians do, as a cover artist. When he sang The Beatles’ “She Loves You” onstage in a church basement in Winnipeg, an audience member famously told him to “stick to instrumentals.” Since that time, however, he’s concentrated on developing as a songwriter (perhaps unwittingly participating in the marginalization of the song interpreter on the way). For this edition of In The Spotlight, we look at a few of the covers Young has attempted, either on album or in concert. Continue reading »