Progressive bluegrass quartet Barbaro takes on a few obvious inspirations on their new EP Under the Covers. Gillian Welch’s “Dark Turn of Mind,” makes sense. Wilco’s “Jesus Etc,” sure. But the other two tunes venture a little further afield. Sheryl Crow’s pop hit “If It Makes You Happy” makes for a jaunty fiddle and banjo number, as does, surprisingly, Cher’s “Believe.”Continue reading »
It’s hard not to look at everything in 2020 through the mirror of the pandemic, and a few of the records on our list can be traced directly to it. One artist used her time in lockdown to cover every song on Radiohead’s The Bends, while another did the same thing with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. An indie label pulled together a tribute to one of the many great artists tragically taken by this goddamn virus, Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger. Hal Willner’s long-in-the-works T. Rex tribute album wasn’t supposed to have anything to do with current events, but Willner, too, died of COVID-19 in the spring.
That being said, the majority of the albums on our list have nothing to do with the news. Any year’s a good year for covering obscure Neil Young songs. And if you want to try to tie 28 different bands covering Blink-182’s “Dammit” to 2020, good luck. Even the klezmer-cabaret artist who recorded an album covering the recently deceased released it March 13, just before she’d unfortunately have many more names to add to her list.
In a way though, the whole concept of the covers record is appropriate for a bleak year. They’re all about paying tribute in some way or another, lifting up influences or even guilty pleasures, honoring those that came before. You can listen to these through that prism if you like. Or you can just take a break from thinking about such things and listen to 28 covers of “Dammit.”
Ashley McBryde – You’re Lookin’ at Country (Loretta Lynn cover)
The Country Music Hall of Fame recently presented a video series called Big Night at the Museum, getting modern country and Americana artists to cover Hall of Famers. Lucinda Williams did Johnny Cash, Miranda Lambert did John Prine, and a bunch more. Best by a blonde-streaked hair was Ashley McBryde, a performer who skirts the line between country, Americana, and brawny rock, proving her bona fides on Loretta Lynn’s “You’re Lookin’ at Country.”Continue reading »
I was drawn to review Ruston Kelly’s Dirt Emo Vol. 1 by Kelly’s bold move of putting a T-Swift cover on an “emo” cover album. The choice of “All Too Well” was oddly prescient, given Taylor Swift’s recent Tiny Desk performance. To be fair, I dare you to find something more emo than these lines: “Hey, you call me up again just to break me like a promise / So casually cruel in the name of being honest.” The choice seems less strange once you learn that Kelly is no stranger to country music. He is based in Nashville and has helped pen country songs, including Tim McGraw’s “Nashville Without You.”
Digging into Kelly’s emo cover album, I found that the teaser Taylor song was actually not one of the standouts. Instead, the strength of the album comes from the songs where he specifically taps into his country roots in more unexpected ways. Two songs made me move beyond reminiscing about the originals and allowed me to hear the songs from a new perspective.
Given how thoroughly “Old Town Road” dominated the summer – the longest-reigning Billboard #1 in history, for those under-a-rock-dwellers among you – it seems shocking that it took until now for the first truly great cover to emerge. Less shocking: that it came from rapper/singer/drummer extraordinaire Anderson .Paak. Back in May, he performed a more straightforward version with Lil Nas X himself, but for BBC’s Live Lounge he and his band The Free Nationals reinvented it into a soul groove with shades of D’Angelo.Continue reading »
Is Blink-182 getting – dare I speak the word – cool?
They’ve always been popular, of course – and appear to have remained so even after co-founder Tom DeLonge left to hunt aliens – but hardly something you would bring up around your hipper friends. But we’ve now seen two tribute albums in as many years. The first came from avant-garde bass player B.E.N. in 2017. And now rising indie singer-songwriter Colleen Green has released another, the literally-titled Blink 182’s “Dude Ranch” as played by Colleen Green. And get this: It’s also played entirely on bass. Bass players really love Mark Hoppus, I guess.Continue reading »