Mar 282016
 

desperate timesIs it bad form to promote your own tribute? It almost makes you think about the crass sort of person who, say, slaps his last name on every building, golf course, airline, casino, steak, or bottle of wine or water that he has anything to do with. Now, what about if it is an employee who instigates a tribute to his employer? That seems pretty cool, especially since so many employees would probably be more likely to spit on something that glorifies their bosses than to work, unpaid, to create a monument to them.

So, let’s give kudos to Jeff “Jefe” Neely, the “website guy” for Old 97’s, who decided that it would be a good idea to get other musicians to cover Old 97’s songs and to use the project as a fundraiser for charity: water, whose mission is to “bring clean and safe drinking water to every person in the world.” The charity was founded in 2006 by Scott Harrison, a former nightclub and fashion promoter after a life changing trip to Liberia.

The band got behind the project, which became known as Desperate Times, and helped to get artists to contribute covers to the project, which was funded through a Pledge Music campaign. In fact, many of the artists had toured with Old 97’s at some point in the band’s two-decade-plus career, and a significant number are from Texas, where Old 97’s formed. Not surprisingly, therefore, most of them inhabit a similar Americana/country/rock space as the band they are covering. The contributors, all well-respected artists if not chart-toppers, seem to have embraced the challenge. For the most part, although the covers don’t generally stray too far from the originals, each is distinctive and all are of exceptional quality.
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May 272014
 
Those Darlins

Is there really anything more punk than Dolly Parton? The Queen of Country continues to be one of music’s greatest trailblazers, crossing genres and leading the way for female artists in a male-dominated industry. She’s a philanthropist, a businesswoman, and one hell of a songwriter. And if all that wasn’t cool enough, she recently revealed that she’s covered in tattoos.

As another installment of A.V. Club and Honda’s excellent series “Pioneering,” Dolly’s signature tune “Jolene” got a total rock makeover from Nashville charmers Those Darlins. It’s hard to ruin such a great song, but Those Darlins took the reigns and made it all their own with a delightful mash of punk, country and rock and roll.
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Jun 222010
 

The amazing thing about this album is that it didn’t come sooner. An indie-Americana tribute to country/folk songwriter John Prine seems so inevitable. He may never have become a household name, but anyone who ever recorded a song with steel guitar or mandolin knows Prine. With bands like My Morning Jacket and the Avett Brothers spearheading an alt-country revival, Prine’s slyly sarcastic songs about love and life are due a second showing.

The artists who appear on Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine comprise a who’s-who of young folk/Americana bands, but these obvious admirers choose some very non-obvious tracks. The usual-suspect songs are largely missing in action. No “Paradise,” no “Sam Stone,” no “Illegal Smile.” The only no-duh selection is “Angel from Montgomery,” one of four songs from Prine’s self-titled debut. The rest span the gamut, dusting off tunes from the ‘80s and ‘90s alongside the canonical ‘70s material.
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