Multi-instrumentalist Juliana Hatfield’s eclectic indie career frequently, pleasingly, takes in cover versions. Adept changes of tone feature in her full-album tributes to The Police and Olivia Newton-John, which received good reviews here. Her ongoing efforts capture the musical influences, on her music and moods, of her formative years. In the latest installment, Hatfield showcases the Electric Light Orchestra’s (ELO‘s) canon in her new project, a self-described “labour of love.” A new single release is the first fruit of that work, “Don’t Bring Me Down.”
Let’s start with a quick nod to the elephant in the room. Dr. John’s Things Happen That Way isn’t a cover album per se, given there are a number of Mac Rebennack originals on this posthumous release. But given the dude has released his 32nd studio album after having been gone these past two years, we’re of a mind to forgive that. Plus, with the otherwise wealth of covers included, heck, of course we had to review it. And for extra kudos, it is a splendid and unexpected joy, delving into the more country flavors of the N’Awlins voodoo meister.
It seems Mr. Mac was always a bit keen on classic country music. He talked about wanting to make this album long before he actually got to. Now, this here country music is none of your Americana or alt-country; this is the real deal, country that demands to be followed by “and Western.” Between 2017 and 2019, Rebennack and guitarist/producer Shane Theriot met up and made it happen. They enlisted several old buddies along the way, cutting tracks until Rebennack’s heart disease finally caught up with him.
However, with his demise, so too, it seemed, died the final say in what songs and which versions would be allowed to appear, this right now transferring to his estate. So what we get isn’t quite what Dr. John had concluded in his lifetime. Mastering took place later, with some of the versions tweaked to further fulfil, says his daughter, her father’s wishes. He re-recorded “I Walk On Guilded Splinters,” perhaps his best known song, with additional vocals from Rickie Lee Jones. They ditched this in favor of one with Lukas Nelson and his band. Which isn’t a bad thing, but both mayhap would have been better?
Anyhoo, with no further ado, what’s Things Happen That Way like?
Eddie Vedder – Long Shadow (Joe Strummer cover)
This month, Joe Strummer would have turned 70. In a few weeks, Dark Horse Records will release the compilation Joe Strummer 002: The Mescaleros Years. To promote it, director Lance Bangs filmed a video of Eddie Vedder covering the posthumously-released Mescaleros track “Long Shadow.” It’s a simple fireside performance, similar to Vedder buddy Neil Young’s lockdown videos, and hopefully will bring more attention to a lesser known non-Clash track from the Strummer catalog.
The late Dr. John released over 30 records in his lifetime, but the legendary pianist still has one more yet to share. Things Happen That Way is the posthumous new album from Dr. John, due out September 23 from Rounder Records. Produced by guitarist Shane Theriot and Dr. John and executive produced by Karla R. Pratt—Dr. John’s daughter—Things Happen That Way features a couple of brand-new Dr. John tunes that reflect on his decades of high-wire living. But the record’s big focus is its handful of cover tunes, taking inspiration from Louisiana Hayride and Dr. John’s favorite country (and country-adjacent) legends. In the thick of the record’s musical gumbo, we’ve got a cover of the Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line,” featuring Aaron Neville and singer-songwriter Katie Pruitt. It’s glorious.
Amaara – House of Cards (Radiohead cover)
We just posted the 45 best Radiohead covers ever, but there’s already a 46th. Unsurprising, really, considering how much this band gets covered. The musical project of actor Kaelen Amara Ohm, Amaara took on the In Rainbows gem “House of Cards.” Her cover carries echoes of the haunting original, but with a smoother electro-ambient sheen.
Chris Anderson – Eh-Hee / Digging in the Dirt (Dave Matthews / Peter Gabriel cover)
Composer Chris Anderson draws from some pretty deep wells of music knowledge on his new Song Cycle. He covers Laurie Anderson and John Cage and Tom Waits – twice. He covers Peter Gabriel twice too, on a beautiful “Mercy Street” and more subtly here, working bits of “Digging in the Dirt” into – of all things – a gospel Dave Matthews cover. “The addition of a choir was important to me to create the feeling of a ground-swell of support,” he writes in an email. “The fact that the song is about ‘knocking the devil to his knees’ made the gospel choir a natural choice.”
A few months back, Nashville’s iconic Ryman Auditorium hosted two star-studded tribute concerts to Bob Dylan to celebrate his 75th birthday. Kesha performing “I Shall Be Released” was the big news-maker as her first high-profile performance during her ongoing legal battle, but many other members of country and Americana royalty also took the stage for an amazing couple nights. The full thing was webcast, but it hasn’t been archived anywhere, so if you missed that you were stuck with grainy YouTube videos – until now. We’ve got every song to stream below (except Kesha, which wasn’t webcast, presumably for legal reasons). For the first time since that night, you can hear pristine recordings of Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Kurt Vile, Emmylou Harris, Butch Walker, Wynonna Judd, Boz Scaggs, Langhorne Slim, John Paul Williams of the Civil Wars, Ann Wilson of Heart, and more covering their favorite Dylan songs, many for the first time ever.