Jun 282022
 

Tonight We RideJason McNiff may not be the best known of names, but this hard-working singer and guitarist has hewn himself quite a place in the annals of that awkwardly entitled genre, UK Americana. McNiff earned a degree in French and Russian, but the lure of his first love proved too strong. He immersed himself in the fingerpicked guitar of folk and blues, in particular the work and style of the late Bert Jansch.

Ahead his premature death, Jansch had had a residency at London’s 12 Bar Club, playing to the faithful every Wednesday. McNiff made sure he was there, week after week, soaking up the excellence. No doubt Jansch came to recognize the tousle-headed youngster in the front row; it’s no coincidence that McNiff’s first record deal was with Jansch’s brother-in-law’s label, Snowstorm. A slew of releases have followed, garnishing him, along the way with an Americana UK (a webzine) album of the year and a nomination for alt country best of year in the US Independent Music Awards. So, no slouch.

Like many current releases, COVID and lockdown birthed Tonight We Ride. McNiff spent his enforced vacation hunkering down with weekly on-line gigs: the “Sundowner” sessions. Exhausting both his own repertoire of songs and those he already loved by others, he had to learn a whole new catalog of material. Tonight We Ride was the logical conclusion: eleven songs encompassing artists McNiff holds the most in reverence, with a couple of his own for good measure. Unsurprisingly, this encompasses both the accepted great and good–in this case, Dylan, Townes, and the Beatles–as well as a couple from the next generation down. And, of course, a couple from Jansch, his idol, and whose percussive picking style permeates this album.
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May 272022
 

Rarely Covered looks at who’s mining the darkest, dustiest corners of iconic catalogs.

bob dylan 1990s

Today concludes our weeklong series celebrating the weirdos who skip over “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Make You Feel My Love” to cover the strangest, oddest, most obscure songs in the vast Bob Dylan catalog.

We’re cramming a couple decades into this finale, for a simple reason. If you’ve been following along, you know the primary criteria for inclusion has been that the song hasn’t been released on an album. Well, recent years simply don’t have that many non-album tracks. And some of the best – “Huck’s Tune,” “Tell Ol’ Bill,” etc – haven’t ever been covered well. So we’re loosening the restrictions a little bit today, mixing covers of some recent-album deep cuts in with the usual oddities and outtakes. Continue reading »

May 272022
 

Dirt Does DylanProving there is nothing like a Dylan covers project to pep up flagging inspiration, and proving also you just cannot have too many of such a thing, Dirt Does Dylan is a worthy addition to the shelves of similar, proving the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, almost as aged an act as is the Bard of Hibbing, have still got legs. Legs and, indeed, arms and voices, the better as to play this collection of, largely, older Dylan standards.

Since kicking off, back in 1966, the band have actually been quite shy of Dylan covers, a glance of their early album credits suggesting they were putting more eggs in the Jackson Browne basket, and I struggled, wading through their myriad releases to find much beyond their version of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” on Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Volume Two, and that potentially only down to the presence of Messrs. McGuinn and Hillman as guests.

That said, founding member Jeff Hanna claims he first found his muse upon hearing Bob Dylan, then locking himself away in his bedroom, working on the chord structures of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” sharing that passion with Jimmie Fadden, who would be his longtime partner in the band they together formed. Fast forward five and a half decades, and Hanna and Fadden are still in the fold, with longtime stalwart Bob Carpenter and three new players, including Hanna’s son, Jaime. And is “Don’t Think Twice” still on the menu? You bet it it is!
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May 262022
 

Rarely Covered looks at who’s mining the darkest, dustiest corners of iconic catalogs.

bob dylan 1980s

Here’s part four of our five-part series on great covers of Dylan songs practically no one covers. If you need to catch up, start at the beginning!

Robbie Fulks – Ain’t Gonna Go to Hell for Anybody

Robbie Fulks knows his rarely-covered Dylan; a few years ago he covered every song on Bob’s 1978 album Street Legal. Other than maybe “Señor,” no one covers those tunes! In 2016, he did an entire concert of Christian Dylan songs at iconic Chicago venue The Hideout. He dug deeper than just the Saved or Shot of Love tracks (or Slow Train Coming, which I covered in the ’70s post). That includes Bob’s hidden fire-and-brimstone gem “Ain’t Gonna Go to Hell for Anybody.” Continue reading »

May 252022
 

Rarely Covered looks at who’s mining the darkest, dustiest corners of iconic catalogs.

bob dylan 1970s

Part three of our Rarely Covered Dylan Songs series – after the Early and Late 1960s – sees us hit the era of Blood on the Tracks, Desire, and Bob’s first gospel album. But this doesn’t include songs from any of them! As with the first two installments, our definition of what Dylan song could qualify as “rarely covered” starts at “not on a proper album” and expands (or, rather, constricts) from there. So below, covers of outtakes and oddities from Bob’s second decade. Continue reading »

May 242022
 

Rarely Covered looks at who’s mining the darkest, dustiest corners of iconic catalogs.

bob dylan late 1960s

Today, on Bob Dylan’s actual birthday, we present part two in our week-long series showcasing covers of lesser-known Dylan songs.

I explained my methodology for defining “lesser-known” in part one on the early ‘60s tunes, but, briefly, the main criteria is that it can’t have appeared on a proper album. Then I just eliminated some additional well-known non-album tracks.

The late ‘60s offer a wealth of such tracks that have been covered – if not often, very well at least once or twice. Dive in below, and check back tomorrow as we enter Bob’s 1970s.

Happy birthday Bob! Continue reading »