It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever heard a blues song that the narrator of “Baby, Scratch My Back” isn’t really talking about itchy shoulder blades. And if the metaphor is still too subtle, Whitehorse’s slinky, sultry new cover will get the message across.
The Canadian husband-and-wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland are preparing to release The Northern South Vol. 2, their latest blues-covers LP, in January (we spoke to them about their own favorite cover songs last month). Their cover of “Baby, Scratch My Back” is a highlight, slower and groovier than some of the more upbeat jams. McClelland’s trademark telephone-mic brings an era-appropriate distortion as Doucet’s fiery guitar leads channel vintage Chess Records. They use pots for percussion, which sounds like something an old bluesman might do, and blow some melodica, which doesn’t.Continue reading »
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
One thing I’ve noticed since Tom Petty’s death, one year ago today, is that he’s been re-appreciated as an album artist. Unlike many of his peers, he never had a world-conquering Born in the U.S.A. or Rumours. His best-selling album – by far – is 1993’s Greatest Hits. But when icons pass, their catalogs get re-assessed.
Some have made the case for Damn the Torpedoes or Full Moon Fever as the best Petty album, and those two – one recorded with the Heartbreakers, one sounding like it might as well have been – certainly offer quintessential Petty-brand rock. But as a complete album statement, Wildflowers tops the list for me. It had a few radio-ready hits – didn’t they all? – but on the whole it presented a softer singer-songwriter side of Petty, harmonies and strummed acoustics subbing in for the big arena-rock choruses.
So, though we’ve paidtribute to Petty before, on the one-year anniversary of his death we wanted to complete a project that we’ve been working on for a while: giving Wildflowers the Full-Album treatment. One roadblock that previously kept us from completing this was that, as in so much of Petty’s career, the hits loomed large. We found ourselves with hundreds of “You Don’t Know How It Feels” covers to choose from, but nothing for some deeper cuts.
So, to quote a band Petty revered as much as any musician, we got by with a little help from our friends. Two of the below songs are exclusives recorded just for this, the first covers – the first good covers, at any rate – of several lesser-known gems. Having songs like this sneaking under the mainstream radar is proof that Petty was, in the end, an album artist as good as they come.Continue reading »
In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.
Two years ago, Whitehorse, the Canadian husband-and-wife duo made up of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, made our Best of 2016 list with their covers EP The Northern South, Vol. 1. Well, a volume one demands a volume two (someone remind Bob Dylan), and that finally arrives in January. On The Northern South, Vol. 2, the pair cover blues legends like Jimmy Reed and Slim Harpo, but not in the bar-band-choogler fashion you most often hear these songs performed. Get a taste with the first single, a version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talkin'” that sounds like Chess Records via Muscle Shoals:
You have to wait until January to hear more – unless you’re in Nashville this week, where the duo have two shows at AmericanaFest on Thursday: 4pm @ The Local (WMOT) and 10pm @ The Basement (I’ve seen them live, and can confirm they are not to be missed). Doucet and McClelland took some time out from rehearsing their own covers to tell us about their favorite cover songs. Though their music often gets pegged as bluesy Americana, their tastes span the genre gamut. They also, consciously or not, seem drawn to other bands with “horse” in the name.Continue reading »
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 »
The first post of the month features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
My first experience with Tom Waits was listening to Rain Dogs my freshman year of college. I didn’t even make it through two songs. The voice grated on my nerves and the off-kilter rhythms made me feel seasick. Needless to say, I’ve come around since, even flying down to Phoenix for twoconcerts in ’08, but you never forget your first time.
Buck 65 – Singapore
Canadian rapper Buck 65 doesn’t seem like an obvious choice to cover Tom Waits, but his lazy snarl grinds its way through this sing/speak perfectly. [Buy]
This song tends to get covered a lot because it’s so catchy. Except when Rubber Donut does it. Then it’s just confounding. [Buy]
The Blue Hawaiians – Jockey Full of Bourbon
According to the Tom Waits Library this is Tom’s most-covered song. More than “Ol’ 55”? More than “Downtown Train”? Apparently. [Buy]
Southside Johnny with La Bamba’s Big Band – Tango Till They’re Sore
A cover of this by Billy’s Band was our Shuffle Sundays pick a few weeks ago (more from them below), so this time we’ll can the Eastern-Bloc cabaret for some brass-fueled swing. La Bamba’s Band, for those who don’t know, are the folks who play with Max Weinberg every night on Conan (R.I.P.) [Buy]
John Hammond – Big Black Mariah
John Hammond is the son of John Hammond, Jr. which must have caused endless confusion around the Hammond home. A longtime friend, Waits produced Hammond’s Wicked Grin covers album, even giving Hammond an unreleased song or two to tackle. Fun fact: Hammond is the only person to ever have a band featuring both Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. [Buy]
Firewater – Diamonds & Gold
Tom Waits would be about the last person you’d expect to have a thing for diamonds, but they sure crop up a lot in his songs (as metaphors at least). “Diamonds on My Windshield,” “Diamond in Your Mind” and this. Maybe one day we’ll see a “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” cover. [Buy]
Lucinda Williams – Hang Down Your Head
Tom’s wife says he writes two kinds of songs: grim reapers and grand weepers. This is the latter. [Buy]
Waitswatcher – Time
This is too, done in a typically gorgeous instrumental arrangement by Pascal Fricke. Poke around his Youtube channel for many, many more. [Buy]
Billy’s Band – Rain Dogs
The aforementioned Billy’s Band has done an entire album of Waits songs: Being Tom Waits. This song is not off it, but rather from their live album Открытка от. I’d love to know what he’s saying at the intro here. [Buy]
The Silver Hearts – Midtown (Instrumental)
The dealbreaker of many full-album candidates is just this: the short instrumental. Luckily, The Silver Hearts have covered the entire Rain Dogs album, so we turn the two brief instrumentals over to them. [Buy]
Max Seilhamer – 9th and Hennepin
A very unusual take on this spoken word piece. Seilhamer puts some grunge-goth guitar behind the scratchy vocals, stopping just short of giving them an actual tune. The source of one of Tom’s most-quoted lines: “All the donuts have names that sound like prostitutes.” [Buy]
Luke Doucet – Gun Street Girl
Doucet’s gritty blues avoids predictability by bringing in a chanteuse to rise above the grime. [Buy]
The Yayhoos – Union Square
A few years back I did a five-part series of live Waits covers called Yesterday Is Here. You can get the first three volumes here and here. [Buy]
Dave Alvin – Blind Love
Bob Seger had a hit with this in 1991. It sounds like a Bob Seger song though, so we’re going to avoid it (sorry Detroit). Alvin’s reverb-drenched blues suits this song better. [Buy]
Toy Shop – Walking Spanish
Tom: “Walking Spanish is an expression they use when you don’t want to go somewhere. It’s 5:30 in the morning and the baby just woke you up screaming and you drag yourself out of bed, you’re walking Spanish. Somebody says, ‘Listen, buddy, give me all your money’ and your hand goes back around toward your wallet, you’re walking Spanish.” [Buy]
Hell Blues Choir – Downtown Train
If the word “choir” turns you off, hopefully the fact that the choir calls themselves “Hell Blues” will make you think again. Against all odds, this Norwegian chorus’ Greetings From Hell: The Tom Waits Song Book is a fantastic tribute, tackling some of Tom’s most difficult tunes (“God’s Away on Business,” “Swordfishtrombones”) with swagger and class. [Buy]
The Silver Hearts – Bride of Rain Dog (Instrumental)
This instrumental could make a great jam tune. My evidence of this is later instrumental “Russian Dance,” with Gogol Bordello and Les Claypool dragged out for fourteen minutes at the 2008 Bonnaroo “Superjam.” [Buy]
Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I Lay My Head
Much ink has been spilt on Johansson’s 2008 Tom Waits tribute album Anywhere I Lay My Head. Saying it received mixed reviews puts it mildly. With TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek behind the boards though, no one can fault it for lack of ambition. This track works better than some. [Buy]