Sep 112023
 

Yes, Once More does and should sound familiar, it being the completion of a project started some time ago, with Jenni Muldaur and Teddy Thompson tackling the great country songbook, specifically as it relates to the duet format. Initially envisaged as a series of three E.P.s, it seemed to grind to a halt after the first two. These two second generation singers had memorably tackled the pair covering first Porter (Wagoner) and Dolly (Parton), the second George (Jones) and Tammy (Wynette). And then we waited.

This time, rather than a third EP, this release is a full-length disc, compiling the first 2 EPs and adding a further four songs. Again the mastermind behind this project is David Mansfield, veteran producer and player, responsible also for Teddy Thompson’s recent My Love Of Country. It seems pointless to repeat and rehearse the opinions around the first eight songs on this album: the songs and our view of them remain the same. But let’s give due space to the new butcher’s handful. Continue reading »

Aug 212023
 

Given the links between the Wainwright dynasties and the Thompson equivalent, I always think of Rufus Wainwright and Teddy Thompson, lifelong friends and competitors, certainly the former, playing together as children whilst their parents made their musical footprints. Indeed, there seems often a Wainwright present whenever the Thompsons congregate for a collective show, and possibly vice versa. Last month Rufus W put out his recent Folkocracy, reviewed here, the North American honoring, by and large, the music from the other side of his pond. Now, with My Love of Country, Teddy is now doing the same in reverse, with this paean to American music. Kinda wish he called it Countrypolitan, but he didn’t. Anyway, this isn’t Thompson’s first set of Nashville covers; 2007’s Upfront and Down Low served as his first rodeo. Plus, as we wait impatiently for the 3rd EP of his Teddy and Jenni EPs, with Jenni Muldaur, each covering a different set of famous country duet artists, it may not be his last.

For years I’ve held the hope aflame that one day Richard might get routinely referred to as Teddy’s father, rather than for Teddy to be always Richard (and Linda)’s son. But, despite seven largely well-received albums, and another half-dozen plus as a producer, Teddy’s career has always seemed to be as a supporting act, and I fear that day may have passed. A pity, as he has a strong and emotive voice, a keening tenor that is perfect for picking up all the emotions and sadness that populate many of his songs. Not to mention that of the whole anguished canon of country music. A consummate interpreter of existential angst, you just know that when he approaches lyrical distress, tears are going to be well and truly jerked.
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Aug 272021
 

Teddy JenniUnless you haven’t been paying attention, you will already know this is a follow-up, the second EP in a series of three, by the music royalty pair, each addressing and celebrating the works of great country duet pairings. We dealt with the first volume …Do Porter & Dolly here, then hedging a bet it would be followed. And is there a better known C&W pairing than that of George Jones and Tammy Wynette, almost as well-known for their life offstage as for the songs they made together?

George Jones was one of country music’s biggest stars, perhaps the biggest. Whenever Johnny Cash was asked who his favorite was, his response always began, “You mean, besides George Jones?” His tally of 160 singles in the country chart gives just some idea as to the hugeness of his appeal, dwarfing the attainment of other genre equivalents. His legacy that has lasted well beyond his 2013 death, unlike many of his contemporaries on the self-same rhinestoned stages of ’50s and ’60s Nashville. Present-day aficionados include Elvis Costello and Robert Plant, who once said, “I now have to listen to George Jones once a day. Amazing singer. What a singer.” All this despite never any lifetime crossover success, he was always strictly country.

Tammy Wynette was his wife between 1969 and 1975, and was already a star in her own right. The succession of joint album recordings they made continued long after they parted, six released during the marriage and three after the divorce, including their biggest seller, ironically, 1976’s Golden Ring. (Incidentally, Tammy’s two best known solo hits, “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.” and “Stand By Your Man” both came ahead of their marriage, so arguably each relate, in one way or another, to George’s effect upon her life.)

As with the last EP, David Mansfield is in charge, his magic hands on the production dials and much of the instrumentation. His love of the genre and of the period is obvious, managing to display the classicism of the songs and yet avoid most of the residual kitsch of the originals. A lower fat and less sugary re-envisioning that maintains all the goodness, but with a slightly more up-to-date taste. Some salt with the saccharine, then, tears with the honey, as befits the prevailing lyrical content.
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Jul 032020
 

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!

Leonard Cohen was known for being something of a perfectionist. “Hallelujah,” for example, was apparently whittled down from around 80 verses, while “Anthem” was the product of ten years’ arduous rewriting. With this in mind, it’s safe to say that Cohen took the same considered approach on the rare occasion that he covered a song. Not the type of person to hastily record a cover to fill up space on an album, each one of Cohen’s covers appear to have been chosen and performed with a great deal of care.
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May 292020
 

Check out the best covers of past months here.

best cover songs may 2020
Daniel Romano’s Outfit – Sweetheart Like You (Bob Dylan cover)


This one’s for all the Dylan superfans. In 1984, Bob Dylan played three songs on Letterman with L.A. punk band The Plugz. They were gritty and garagey and raw. It boded well for his new sound. And then he never played with them again. The album he was ostensibly promoting, Infidels, was much smoother, helmed by Mark Knopfler. For those who still wonder what could have been, Daniel Romano covered the entire album as if he’d recorded it with The Plugz. Continue reading »

Jul 172018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

nicki bluhm cover songs

Singer-songwriter Nicki Bluhm boasts a lot of experience with collaboration. Her new album To Rise You Gotta Fall (hear a track below) features two co-writes with her friend Ryan Adams, and in recent years she’s toured in Phil Lesh’s band and as part of the Incredible Stringdusters. When last I saw her live, she was singing “The Weight” in Levon’s barn as part of Amy Helm’s female-musicians collective Skylark.

So as someone who knows how different musicians and genres can blend to create unexpected classics, it’s no surprise she’s a fan of cover songs. She used to record amazing covers with her band while driving the van, and her new album includes a powerful blast through Dan Penn’s “I Hate You” (appropriate for a divorce record). And she digs deep in her cover recommendations below, going from a certain song you might remember from last month’s Best Beyoncé Covers countdown to a nod to a Grateful Dead song she has sung with Lesh himself. Check out Nicki’s picks below. Continue reading »