Hope Silverman

Hope Silverman of NYC grew up actually wishing she could work in a real live Record Store. The wish was manifested beginning with a long stint at CBGB's Record Canteen where Johnny Thunders called her "sweetheart", and then carried on through many colorful years at HMV and Virgin. Her retail journey culminated in running Rough Trade Shop in NYC. She currently works her music muscle by both kicking out the occasional record on her tiny label 80N7 and flexing hard at her nerdy music blog showcasing the under-appreciated, underrated and undiscovered in the glorious pop universe. https://pickinguprocks.com

Jul 092020
 

ryley walker covers epjenn champion the blue albumThe most basic, clinical way to describe singer-songwriter-guitarist Ryley Walker’s signature sound would be to liken him to legends like Bert Jansch, John Martyn or Michael Hedges. Which is to say he’s jazzy, folky, eccentric and joyfully unpredictable. But the ideal way to describe his sound requires that we get flowery and overly sentimental for a second: He infuses such an undeniable brightness into whatever he plays that he quite literally sounds like the sun peaking through the trees on a quiet street in the summertime.

On his new cover EP, titled, yes, covers, his slips his beautifully optimistic style onto tracks by Grouper, Cass McCombs, Isotope 217 and Amen Dunes. You don’t need to be familiar with the originals here to appreciate the EP’s sweet, embraceable sound. In fact if you aren’t, Walker’s engaging versions of these tracks might inspire you to check out the originals (in which case you are in for a treat). Continue reading »

Jun 242020
 
Emma Swift

Bob Dylan just released his 39th studio album Rough and Rowdy Ways and in case you haven’t heard, it is very, very good. “I Contain Multitudes” was the LP’s second single and remains one of its undeniable highlights. Upon first listen, the song feels very stream of consciousness, with Bob reeling off, well, absolutely everything rumbling in his head about his life from the seemingly trivial (“I eat fast foods”) to the profound (“I sleep with life and death in the same bed”) and listing the sounds, pages, and images that have enveloped and defined it. And yes, the sound you just heard was Bob explaining the meaning of life in under 5 minutes because unlike the rest of us, he can just do that.

Australian singer-songwriter Emma Swift has recorded an album of Dylan covers titled Blonde on the Tracks which is set for release in August. And the first track she opted to release was not a familiar classic but a stunningly warm, heartfelt version of “I Contain Multitudes.” She serves it up as a hypnotic, melodic hymn, very reminiscent in style of vintage Gillian Welch, resulting in something exceptionally beautiful.
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Jun 192020
 

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!

While The Isley Brothers are commonly filed under Soul or R&B, that categorization only partially reflects what they have delivered soundwise since the release of their first album way back in 1959. We all know how this works: basically, whatever genre your biggest hits fall into will then by default define who you are to the world forevermore. And because their most popular songs are of the soul shouter-disco/funk-quiet storm variety, they have been conveniently stuffed into the singular genre of Soul/R&B. But in the case of the Isleys, this cut-and-dried categorization is exceptionally misleading. Which is to say, while their ’60s hits “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You) and “Shout Pts. & 2” remain their highest ranking tracks in terms of Spotify plays, they are hardly reflective of the true, signature Isley sound, a perfect melding of topical Rock & Soul that remains unmatched to this day. Make no mistake (and with all due respect to their former Motown label mates, The Temptations and The Four Tops), The Isley Brothers were a proper band. Like The Beatles or The Stones. A classic old school, turn the amp up to 11, self-contained, smokin’, genre-defying band.

This is just a roundabout way of saying  if you want to know what the Isleys are really about sonically and philosophically, it’s best to avoid the greatest hits playlists and head straight for the string of positively seminal studio albums the band released from 1971-1976. There were 6 in total over that time, beginning with Givin’ It Back and running on through to 1976’s Harvest For The World. It is there you will meet O’Kelly, Rudolph, Ronald, Ernie, Marvin and Chris Jasper, the real Isley Brothers.
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Jun 052020
 

Off the Beaten Path looks at covers of songs from a less popular era in an artist’s career.

joni mitchell in the 80s

The ’80s were a markedly confusing and dark time for many of the music world’s more established and beloved artists. The new decade brought a seismic shift in pop sights and sounds that included the arrival of “The Second British Invasion” in the U.S., featuring the likes of Duran Duran, Eurythmics and Culture Club. This guy called Prince began his reign/rain, and Madonna Louise Ciccone launched her complete world takeover. And oh yeah, there was this other thing, a behemoth called MTV that took near complete control of music culture (as well as my own teen brain). The garish, glossy videos they showed 24/7 became as crucial to an artist’s success as radio airplay. And so, like some musical equivalent of Logan’s Run, any musician over 30 suddenly seemed genuinely old indeed. The acoustic sounds that had been so mega and pervasive only a handful of years before all of a sudden sounded criminally dated. Continue reading »

May 202020
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

At Last I Am Free

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Chic? The pretty much guaranteed #1 answer is of course “Le Freak,” the 1978 stone cold classic anthem that has come to epitomize disco in its every manifestation; from the overall sound, to the sartorial style, to the era it happened in as a whole. There’s a good chance that the track following that on your mental turntable would be Chic’s other absolutely killer floor filler, the gorgeously soul stirring “I Want Your Love.” As it happens, both songs featured on Chic’s sophomore album C’est Chic, a ridiculously prescient piece of art that quickly established bandleaders Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards as indisputable musical masterminds as well as genius seers of production.

But underneath the pounding glamour and virtuosic Edwards bass-playing, Chic had a secret talent. While they could expertly turn out seminal late-night party anthems like nobody’s business, they were also capable of crafting the most incredible, evocative, lonely, 2 AM in the city ballads. Case in point: “At Last I Am Free,” from the aforementioned C’est Chic.
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May 132020
 

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.

Radka Toneff

Up until a few years ago, I had no idea who Radka Toneff was. I stumbled upon her only because I was doing what what all Cover Me nerds do in their spare moments: looking for cover versions of their favorite songs (in my own case it’s to add a little spice to my specific-song-themed-playlist situation because I’m a deluxe version nerd). Continue reading »