Jun 252024
 

Sometimes it is the lower key and lesser heard that most catches the ear, and Adam Holmes a prime example. If you follow the contemporary Scottish folk (and beyond) scene, you may well know Holmes already, for having one of the more soulful instruments in the country, a warm burr with a distant flavor of John Martyn. Starting off as a member of neo-trad outfit Rura, Holmes’ singing and songs were a tidy contrast to their instrumental elemental fare of fiddle, flute and pipes. With time, the mix became perhaps too schizophrenic, he needing a platform to stay on stage the whole set. This he found, forming a band, the Embers, lasting for a well-received year or three.

Since then he has been on his own, give or take a duo, with Heidi Talbot, and a brief membership of Anglo-Scots folk-rock supergroup, The Magpie Arc. A veritable one man industry, he releases his own albums and sorts out his own gigs and shows, no middlemen to sour the pitch. As such, the gap between he and his audience is thin; if you fancy him writing a song for you, or for him to play in your own home, he will; contact him, via his website.

Songs for My Father, the second of two recent releases, each dedicated to cover versions, is in his father’s memory, the songs of his childhood and his father’s record collection. (The earlier one, last year’s The Voice of Scotland, covered more the traditional songs he grew up with, together with a couple that have near earnt that same soubriquet: we included “You Are My Sunshine” from that set recently.) Holmes’ father, dying of throat cancer, made a last request his son record his favorite songs; it was a task that took Holmes ten years to work up the initiative to address.
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Jun 252024
 

Tom Petty was always open in his love and respect for country music. Debt, even, with many of his songs a mere pedal steel away from sounding that way. So the new tribute album Petty Country: A Country Music Celebration of Tom Petty is not remotely any leap into uncharted territory. And, go figure the number of existing covers of his songs, effortlessly traversing into the full Nashville, Bakersfield or wherever you want to be the center of the genre. And then go figure who is lined up here, with Dolly and Willie, to start with, they who need no surname, right through Steve Earle and Margo Price and to more conventional hat acts like Chris Stapleton and George Strait.

Made with the full co-operation of the Petty estate, and, particularly, the oversight of his daughter, Adria, Petty Country unsurprisingly contains a Heartbreaker or two to beef up the instrumental chops. The songs contained herein also take a good walk through the catalog, unafraid of both picking the obvious candidates and digging deeper.
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May 312024
 
Bat for Lashes
Bambie Thug – Zombie (The Cranberries cover)

This month, Bambie Thug represented Ireland in Eurovision, coming in sixth (the country’s highest placement since 2000). Shortly before the finals, they released this cover of The Cranberries’ “Zombie”amidst criticism of their outspokenness about the devastation in Gaza. The top YouTube comment puts it well: “The significance of Bambie choosing to cover this song will not be lost on anyone in Ireland or the UK, or many places outside them. It’s just about the most impactful call for peace an Irish person can give, and they’ve done it as well as anyone ever has.” Continue reading »

Apr 302024
 
best cover songs
The Dirty Nil — Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler cover)

I’m honestly surprised there weren’t more “Total Eclipse” covers during this month’s total eclipse. Perhaps because our total eclipse was of the sun, rather than the heart. Or, more likely, because this song is hard as hell to sing. Best of the bunch came this garage-rocking version from Ontario trio The Dirty Nil. Gritty and raw, and singer Luke Bentham sells the hell out of it. Continue reading »

Mar 012024
 
best cover songs february 2024
Annie Lennox — Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince/Sinéad O’Connor cover)

The emotional highpoint of the Grammys—well, other than Tracy Chapman’s return (covers-adjacent!)–was Annie Lennox’s tribute to Sinéad O’Connor during the In Memoriam. Bonus points because she was backed by two longtime bandmembers of Prince (who, of course, wrote the song), Wendy and Lisa. The teardrop on Lennox’s eye was very Prince, and the political statement at the end was very Sinéad. Continue reading »

Feb 232024
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

beatles covers

Sixty years ago this month, The Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show. You don’t need us to tell you what a momentous occasion this was; entire books have been written on the subject. Suffice to say we’re using the anniversary as our excuse to finally devote a Best Covers Ever to perhaps the biggest band of them all. We’ve done Dylan. We’ve done the Stones. We’ve done Dolly and Springsteen and Prince. But there was one last giant remaining.

Though it’s difficult to measure this precisely, The Beatles are the most-covered artist of all time according to the two biggest covers databases on the internet (SecondHandSongs, WhoSampled). And that certainly feels right. “Yesterday” is often cited as the most-covered song of all time, though that needs qualifiers (a ton of Christmas standards would beat it). But, again, it feels right. The Beatles were ubiquitous in their day, and they’ve been ubiquitous ever since. They just had a chart-topping single last month, the A.I.-assisted “Now and Then,” which was duly covered widely. If “Carnival of Light” ever surfaces, no doubt a carnival of covers will soon follow. Continue reading »