Aug 222014

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

The rock and roll bands that slammed on the brakes and took the turnoff at country music are numerous. Gram Parsons got high with Keith Richards and “Dead Flowers” was born. The number of times Elvis Costello has cheated on rock and roll with country’s graces is too numerous to count. Jack White turned the knobs for Loretta Lynn. And so on.

The postpunk and indiepop bands that have segued into a Ryman act are no less numerous. X gave birth to the Knitters. The New Pornographers cut loose chanteuse Neko Case. And the Archers of Loaf’s Eric Bachmann disbanded all notions of his indie rock band and spread out into numerous directions, including the roots rock band Crooked Fingers.

Bachmann’s former (?) band the Archers of Loaf swept into the ’90s under the mantle of Nirvana, popping up in that decade’s North Carolina indie music surge that included Superchunk and Polvo. Whether true recognition or dumb luck, AOL landed on both the My So Called Life and Mallrats soundtracks, giving fans hope that new rock would weather the storm of pop music. Alas, it was not meant to be.

The Archers, suffering like many bands whose sound eclipses musical trends, cracked under the pressure of just being themselves. When the band stopped playing, they looked around and noticed they were the same, but everybody else had changed. After the breakup, Bachmann formed Crooked Fingers, but various challenges forced him to try different things: releasing an instrumental album, self-releasing another, even living in a van for a while to try and survive. Bachmann released one album under his own name, but seems to prefer the Crooked Fingers title, which he named after his grandfather’s CB handle.

Lambchop — Sweet Marie (Crooked Fingers cover)

[audio: Sweet Marie Crooked Fingers cover.mp3]
Nashville’s Lambchop, Kurt Wagner’s musical chairs band, gives this Crooked Fingers song the reverence it needs, delicately picking its melodious way through the tune. Truly, a more beautiful ode to sniffing glue cannot be found.

The Brixton Riot — Might (Archers of Loaf cover)

New Jersey’s The Brixton Riot comes out of the rock-and-punk scene that’s spawned bands such as the Misfits and Gaslight Anthem.  Their more-noise-is-better cover of “Might” lights the torch of the original, then snuffs it out in a proper two minutes length of time.

Suits and Ukes — Sleep All Summer (Crooked Fingers cover)

Suits and Ukes is the pseudonym of Ben Prisbylla and Allison Edwards, who have done a series of YouTube videos highlighting — what else? — the ukelele. They play it straight from the National/St. Vincent cover song playbook, but add more warmth and interaction than that popular-yet-flawed cover does. Bachmann took three years to finish writing the song.

Matt Galvin — Web in Front (Archers of Loaf cover)

AOL’s most popular song is also the one most covered. That’s not always a good thing. Matt Galvin properly plugs in, eschewing the acoustic bedroom covers that propagate across YouTubeland.

Sotto Voce — Scenic Pastures (Archers of Loaf cover)

Sotto Voce’s (Ryan Gabos) cover is exactly the opposite of the indie rock original, coming across more as a song from a stage musical. Although the style might not mesh for Archers of Loaf fans, variances in cover styles such as this is exactly what we at Cover Me like to see.

Wormburner — Harnessed in Slums (Archers of Loaf cover)

Let’s rock.

Bobby Oxblood — Chumming the Ocean (Archers of Loaf cover)

Bachmann’s ode to Shark Week gets a great transition to guitar by Oxblood. Ditching the piano for guitar,  combined with a stress on vocal performance, the poetry flows out front and center. Poignant and haunting, Oxblood’s performance is made more lonely by the waitstaff clinking glasses in the background as they go about their business, uninterested in the song he is pouring his heart out on the stage.


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