May 292024
 
kane brown

When I was a young kid growing up in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s I was obsessed with The Flintstones. I would watch reruns nearly everyday after school, so I was constantly bombarded with mid-20th century pop culture references. Some made total sense to me, like secret agent Jay Bondrock or “Bug Music” with the Four Insects. Others took decades for me to decode.

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May 282024
 
Diamanda Galás

Who originally wrote “La Llorona?” We’ll likely never know. The information on who the original song was done by is a bit murky, to say the least, with some saying the writer is unknown/anonymous, and others incorrectly crediting the Costa Rican/Mexican singer Chavela Vargas. The tune was said to be popularized in the 1940s by politician and poet Andres Henestrosa.

What we do know is that “La Llorona” (The Weeping Woman) comes from the story of a vengeful ghost from Mexican and Latin American folklore. It is said that she drowned her own children in a gust of rage after finding out that her husband was unfaithful to her.

No matter who penned it, the song is pervasive and eerie, touching on love, loss, and murder. But in Diamanda Galás hands (and voice!), it’s even more stirring. The artist takes us underwater with her rich lows and cries into the piano as her voice soars dramatically.

Galás had performed the cover live in San Francisco in 2017 but didn’t release the live version of the tune until this year. From the murky, bleak, and low piano to the stunning rubato, and deep guttural vocal moments reminiscent of crying or mourning, even if listeners don’t speak Spanish, they’ll certainly be affected.

According to Galás’ Instagram:

Diamanda’s “La Llorona” is the legend of a mestizo woman who has been abandoned by her Spanish lover, who deserted her for a “purebred” woman. Faced with the threat of having her children stolen by their father, she takes the children to the river and kills them to destroy her faithless lover’s bloodline. She lives on, a haunted and disdained outcast who walks each night by the river, gathering weeds and hoping to find her children again.

The influence of the amanes/amanethes can be heard in Galás’ dramatic and stark interpretation of the Mexican folk song “La Llorona”. It is not purely a stylistic choice but also a logical one as the similarly emotive Spanish cante jondo tradition, brought to Spain by Moorish settlers, also evolved from Byzantine roots. “La Llorona” is a tragic tale of abandonment, revenge, murder, humiliation and isolation. – Will Pinfold

The artist’s album is due to be released this upcoming June and is a collection of live recordings from places she performed across the States.

May 272024
 
prince fatty smells like teen spirit cover

Even now, over three decades later, there is probably no more iconic Nirvana song for non-fans than “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It’s their biggest hit and far and away their most covered song, with basically double the number of covers of any other of their songs.

British reggae and dub producer Prince Fatty figured there still weren’t enough. He just released a 7″ with not one but two “Smells Like Teen Spirit” covers on it. The a-side is an instrumental version featuring a prominent horn section and the b-side features a slightly different mix with guest vocalists. Continue reading »

May 242024
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Powderfinger

I just kind of stopped all over.
–The final sentence of
After Dark, My Sweet by Jim Thompson

Writing a first-person singular postmortem is the sort of project writers take on as a challenge. How to tell a tale when the teller is no longer with us? Where are they talking from? Do they know more than they did? It’s a gimmick, but like all gimmicks it has enough winners to keep people trying it.

Songwriters have taken up the challenge repeatedly, and the best of them – “Long Black Veil,” “El Paso,” “I Come and Stand at Every Door” – have met the challenge with style and grace. Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” is absolutely one of the best of them. The song’s death scene is as brief and vivid as the death itself – “Then I saw black, and my face splash in the sky” stays with you forever after you understand it.

One reason for that: it’s one of the few definite things about the song. Fans have long debated where and when it takes place, and what the song is “really” about. Neil himself rarely lets anyone peek behind the curtain, but did reveal in a 1995 Spin interview that “You may not see the anger, or the angst, or whatever in me lay behind a song like ‘Powderfinger.’ But I’ve seen things in my life that I’ll never forget—and I see them every day. And I see strength that I can’t understand, and weaknesses that I can’t deal with.”
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May 242024
 
little feat

In the late ‘90s, I took a musicology class on the history of 20th century American music. During a section on blues, my professor played Muddy Waters’ rendition of “Got My Mojo Working.” “Now,” she said after it ended. “What is the song about?” Frustrated by our blank stares, she yelled out, “Sex, people. It’s about sex.” More precisely, it’s about someone trying to score and failing miserably, but that’s the blues for you.

We’re now almost one-quarter of the way through the 21st Century, and we can still talk about “Got My Mojo Working,” and all its tawdriness, in the present tense. Last week, the long-running rock band Little Feat released a live cover on its newest album Sam’s Place.

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May 232024
 
slash demi lovato

Slash’s latest album is called Orgy of the Damned. As befits an elder statesman of the field, he has been able to call in some good friends to fill out his blues and soul tinged recording. The latest single release is his version of “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” with Demi Lovato providing vocals and added emotional heft. Continue reading »