Aug 082023

One Great Cover looks at the greatest cover songs ever, and how they got to be that way.

A confession: I am an avowed Lankumite. Is that even a thing? Well, if it isn’t, it should be. Anyway, Lankum, the folk-music group from Dublin, are doing radical things with traditional Irish (and, more broadly, Celtic) song. They’ve taken the genre from the middle of the road, where it’s been content to exist in an almost homogenous state of stupefaction, and dragged it back into the ditch (yep, you’ve probably read that analogy before). Now, don’t get me wrong; there is a jaw-dropping virtuosity among the current constituency of players–but, well, that’s the problem. It’s all too impeccably rendered. There is little or no grit. Not only do Lankum drag it back into the ditch, they drag it through the mud of edgy contemporary influences to forge something as modern as it is ancient.

Three albums in and the promise of each has delivered in spades. Mojo magazine described Between the Earth and Sky as “powerfully strange” (in a good way), while The Independent newspaper in the UK lauded Lankum for offering “an object lesson in how to perform old songs in new ways, without losing the essential sense of continuity that gives traditional music its timeless appeal.” Their followup, The Livelong Day, is every more delightfully disquieting – the track “Katie Cruel” especially so – and finds the band firmly staking the territory claimed on their debut before they establish their own country altogether on False Lankum.

The real revelation, among many, is “The Wild Rover” (from Between the Earth and Sky), a horror movie dirge that subverts the popular embrace of the song as a drinking anthem and plunges it into a miasma of alcoholic regret.
Continue reading »