Apr 112011

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Even if you haven’t heard of her, there’s a pretty good chance that Petra Haden’s been lurking around some of the music you like. In 2005 she toured with indie rock extraordinaires The Decemberists. The year after that she accompanied the Foo Fighters on their unplugged tour. In both cases she added texture to those bands’ songs with her impressive violin skills and unique voice. Green Day even employed her to contribute violin to their 1997 Nimrod album. What would “Hitchin’ a Ride” or “Good Riddance” be without that sweet string sound?

What you may not know is that Petra Haden’s had a rich career on her own, and much of that career has involved putting a spin on some diverse covers. Probably her most impressive project occurred in 2005 when Haden completely re-recorded 1967’s The Who Sell Out, bogus commercials and all, using only her voice and an 8-track tape recorder. That same year she collaborated with noted jazz guitarist Bill Frisell on an album which featured covers ranging from Elliott Smith to Coldplay to Henry Mancini. She’s even tackled classical pieces. For instance, she contributed a vocal arrangement of Bach’s “Prelude No. 2 in C# Minor” to 1997’s Chasing Amy soundtrack.

Below is a sampling of Haden’s rich covers career. Check out The Who’s “I Can See for Miles,” the biggest hit off The Who Sell Out. Then enjoy her and Bill Frisell’s delicate reading of professional associates the Foo Fighters’ “Floaty.” Next you can hear her surprisingly propulsive take on Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller,” as well as the Bach cover that caught Kevin Smith’s ear. Finally, we present her 10-piece vocal arrangement of Journey‘s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” It seems that Glee owes a debt to Ms. Haden for their biggest hit.

Learn more about Petra Haden on her official website!

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  4 Responses to “Under the Radar: Petra Haden”

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  1. She was in that dog. in the mid-nineties…great band! Thanks for this Eric.

  2. She is one of my favorites. You can hear her and her sisters (triplets!) on her father’s album “Charlie Haden, Family & Friends: Rambling Boy,” too.

    I have been searching forever for her a capella version of Enya’s “Watermark” on her first album, “Imaginaryland.” If anyone has that album it would be GREAT if you’d lead me to a post of it (the Bach Prelude was originally on that album as well).

    As always, a great post. This is my favorite site, bar none.

  3. Only it’s c minor. :-)

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