Apr 262013
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

It is hard to remember that in 1998, when Mermaid Avenue was released, Billy Bragg was a well-respected leftist folkie, a former busker who had progressively cleaned up and expanded his sound, and he was probably at the height of his commercial popularity. By contrast, Wilco, which was struggling to emerge from the shadows of Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, had released two albums – a debut that was not fawned over, and a follow-up that was critically adored, but far from a hit. The idea that within a few years, Wilco would become a critical and popular success, serve as an example of the music industry’s bizarre decision-making process, headline places like Madison Square Garden, and curate its own summer music festival, would probably have been scoffed at by most, including Jeff Tweedy.

Keep in mind as well that in 1998, the idea of putting out an album of unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics with brand-new music was a bit unusual, but after Mermaid Avenue, it became almost common. Later albums from artists such as Jonatha Brooke, The Klezmatics and even Tweedy’s former Uncle Tupelo bandmate and nemesis Jay Farrar (along with Anders Parker, Will Johnson and Jim James) have followed this theme, as have single songs by artists as diverse as the Navajo group Blackfire and the punk provocateurs Anti-Flag. So, Mermaid Avenue was not only fabulous music, it helped to spawn a revival of interest in the music of Woody Guthrie, which can only be a good thing.

Continue reading »

Jul 202011
 

As part of the upcoming 2012 year-long 100th birthday celebration of Woody Guthrie comes Note of Hope, a twelve song covers tribute of mostly unreleased Guthrie songs. Woody’s daughter Nora Guthrie is at the helm producing the project which features bass player extraordinaire Rob Wasserman joining up with a fantastic selection of artists. The legendary American singer-songwriter and folk musician is getting the birthday party he deserves. Continue reading »

May 202011
 

Last month, Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, and Old Crow Medicine Show channeled their old-weird-America roots by touring the South on an old train. Dubbed the Railroad Revival Tour, it featured the bands hitting six cities aboard a few old Amtrak cars. Joe Biden would approve. Continue reading »

Jul 262009
 

This Week’s News

First up, if you haven’t heard Jordan Galland’s new covers of Pulp’s “Bad Cover Version” and Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf,” check them out now!! They earned him a shout-out on RollingStone.com, so you know he’s done something right.

A couple cool covers up at SPIN from backstage at Bonnaroo. We’ve got Alberta Cross doing a John Lennon diss and Everest tackling a Crazy Horse obscurity. And be sure to read the finely-written descriptions…

I posted about the upcoming Marc Mulcahy tribute album a few weeks back, but the tracks have started coming out. The most-anticipated is clearly Thom Yorke’s contribution, and you can hear the Radiohead main man take on “All For the Best” here! Even better in my book is The National’s version of Polaris’ “Ashamed of the Story I Told.”

That National tune can also be got in Captain Obvious’ new covers mixtape. Always a good day when one of these comes out – thanks Cap’t!

Hot Chip fans and folk-pop fans can gather together to enjoy this “Ready for the Floor” cover from Lissy Trullie.

Beck continues to be a cover maniac, getting halfway through The Velvet Underground & Nico thus far at his website. Nice! Then you can get pumped for another upcoming album, Skip Spence’s Oar featuring Jeff Tweedy! Still wish he’d managed that Ace of Base disc though.

I love Springsteen covers almost as much as I love the originals, so a new 38-track tribute album by up-and-coming indie acts? Sign me up! It’s available here, with loads of free samples!

Ryan’s Smashing Life has uncovered a top-notch dance-funk “This Must Be the Place” cover which, paired with remade scenes from American Psycho is both fascinating and disturbing. A must-watch.

This Week’s Submissions

A Cappella – You Rock My World (Michael Jackson)

The Broken Chimneys – Ain’t Gonna Go to Hell for Anybody (Bob Dylan)

The Broken Chimneys – Changing of the Guards (Bob Dylan)

The Broken Chimneys – Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight (Bob Dylan)

The Broken Chimneys – She’s Your Lover Now (Bob Dylan)

M. Pyrees and the Moonwalkers – I’ll Be There (Jackson 5)

David Potts-Dupre – Ingrid Bergman (Woody Guthrie/Wilco/Billy Bragg)

Jan 212009
 

–Edit: Lots of posts disappearing from blogger. I’m reposting this one with links since it was so recent, but the others will be sadly link-less.–

An exciting day tomorrow. I don’t even remember what it’s like to have a government I trust, so it’ll be nice to see old G-Dubs head back to Crawford. Here’s hoping that Obama and co. can get this country back on the road to peace, justice, and compassion.

Elliott Murphy – Better Days (Bruce Springsteen)
One of Springsteen’s better songs from his stagnant period with the “Other Band” in the early 90’s. He often joked that after decades of songs about the down-and-out, when he finally wrote some happy songs, everyone turned away. Sounds like he’s back to positivity with next week’s Working On a Dream though. We’ll see how that pans out. [Buy]

Sanctus Real – Beautiful Day (U2)
U2’s Christian roots are widely known, though one would be amiss to call them “Christian rock.” In fact, most Christian radio stations will play covers of U2 songs, but not the originals. In that case, they might play this one, from an all-Christian rock cover disc to U2 released for charity. Sanctus Real crunchifies this recent cut, keeping it just stadium-ready enough at the chorus. [Buy]

Ellen McIlwaine – Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder)
The third in our string of Inaugural performers is the most relevant; this is actually the song Wonder chose to perform yesterday with Usher and Shakira (video). Originally a classic soul stomp, McIlwaine’s funky blues guitar takes it a completely different direction. [Buy]

Pearl Jam – People Have the Power (Patti Smith)
It’s a popular song for the politically-conscious artist to take on, be it Bruce Springsteen or U2. At a live show in ’03 Eddie Vedder propelled the band through this grunge-rock growl of an anthem. You can see him perform it with Smith herself here. [Buy]

Status Quo – Getting Better (The Beatles)
A cut from Sgt. Pepper’s getting even more orchestral and layered? Not possible you say? The Quo is here to tell you different. With strings, horns, and glockenspiel, the sound matches the optimism. [Buy]

Doyle Bramhall – I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash)
It’s a hell of a song, but most versions of this soul classic sound about the same. Not true of Bramhall’s blues rocker, copious guitar work embellishing the joy in his voice. [Buy]

Cold War Kids – A Change Is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke)
It’s a live one, from a set at Bonnaroo ’07 at which they also covered the much more pessimistic “Dirt in the Ground” by Tom Waits. This one’s been cited a lot recently, first in Obama’s Grant Park acceptance speech in which he said “It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.” [Buy]

Barb Jungr – Things Have Changed (Bob Dylan)
Jungr’s a perennial Dylan cover artist, bringing a dark cabaret to Bob’s Oscar-winning theme for Wonderboys, arguably the best song he’s written in the last twenty years. [Buy]

Floyd Dixon – Blue Skies (Tom Waits)
Nope, this isn’t the Irving Berlin song of the same name (though that would have been a good choice too), but a very early Waits songs that he never saw fit to put on an album. A shame, because this tale of moving beyond hardship is beautiful. The guys knows he has a long way to go to be happy again, but he’s willing to try. It’s a good metaphor for America these days actually. [Buy]

Bob Dylan – This Land Is Your Land (Woody Guthrie)
Pete Seeger and Springsteen sang this one at the Inauguration concert and, fun as that was, it didn’t reinvent the song like Bob did at a 1963 show. Toying with the melody as is his wont, Dylan doesn’t let reverence to his idol interfere with a fresh interpretation. Woody would have been proud. [Buy]