Jun 112021
 
They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Howlin' Wolf covers

Born 111 years ago this week, Chester Burnett, better known as Howlin’ Wolf, was a blues musician who possessed one of the most distinctive voices in 20th century popular music, and who wrote some of his genre’s most enduring hits. With his rival Muddy Waters, Wolf defined the electric blues style that reverberated out of Chicago in the 1950s. This sound in turn altered the course of the nascent rock music genre, as youngsters like Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton absorbed Chicago blues, and brought their own trippy flavor of it to new and wider audiences. Wolf was among the first black musicians to capitalize on white youths’ love for the blues form.
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Jan 312019
 
best cover songs january
Beck – Tarantula (Colourbox cover)

Few expected the movie Roma to be as big a hit as it was (it’s tied for the most Oscar nominations). Even Sony must not have, as they’re just getting around to releasing a soundtrack two months after release – and as Music Inspired By The Film Roma, i.e. must that doesn’t actually appear in the film. But Beck’s beautiful cover of 4AD group Colourbox arrives better late than never. Accompanied by an orchestra and Leslie Feist on backing vocals, he’s never sounded more like Peter Gabriel. Continue reading »

Nov 302018
 

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!

Whiterhorse

Whitehorse has had a pretty darn good 2018. Their 2017 album Panther in the Dollhouse was nominated for a Juno for Adult Alternative Album of the Year. They recorded two new albums: A Whitehorse Winter Classic, released earlier this month, and The Northern South Vol.2, which comes out in January. We premiered their cover of Slim Harpo’s “Baby, Scratch My Back,” and also learned about some of the favorite covers of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, the husband and wife that make up the band. Continue reading »

Oct 312018
 
cover songs october
AJ Lambert – Lush Life (Frank Sinatra cover)

Frank Sinatra’s granddaughter covers Frank Sinatra. You think you know where this story ends: fawning nepotism. But despite familial loyalty, A.J. Lambert isn’t afraid to twist “Lush Life,” adding a Lynchian undercurrent of menace. More of an overcurrent in the crawling, nose-bleeding video.

Amy Shark – Teenage Dirtbag (Wheatus cover)

Every month, one or two of these selections invariably hail from Spotify’s terrific new cover-sessions series. My only gripe is that they came with no information, the sort a band would write in the YouTube description or press release announcing a new cover, or say on stage before performing one live. That’s now solved with Spotify’s new “Under Cover” podcast, in which the artists performing the covers talk about them. We learn that Amy Shark tried to make “Teenage Dirtbag” a Pixies song, and that she considered the song her anthem when she was young. She says: “The first time I heard ‘Teenage Dirtbag,’ I was in high school. I was crazy obsessed with it to the point where it was in my head every day all day. I would sing it in all day in school. Even teachers would say, ‘Amy, please listen to something else.'” Continue reading »

Oct 182018
 

It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever heard a blues song that the narrator of “Baby, Scratch My Back” isn’t really talking about itchy shoulder blades. And if the metaphor is still too subtle, Whitehorse’s slinky, sultry new cover will get the message across.

The Canadian husband-and-wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland are preparing to release The Northern South Vol. 2, their latest blues-covers LP, in January (we spoke to them about their own favorite cover songs last month). Their cover of “Baby, Scratch My Back” is a highlight, slower and groovier than some of the more upbeat jams. McClelland’s trademark telephone-mic brings an era-appropriate distortion as Doucet’s fiery guitar leads channel vintage Chess Records. They use pots for percussion, which sounds like something an old bluesman might do, and blow some melodica, which doesn’t. Continue reading »

Oct 022018
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

wildflowers covers

One thing I’ve noticed since Tom Petty’s death, one year ago today, is that he’s been re-appreciated as an album artist. Unlike many of his peers, he never had a world-conquering Born in the U.S.A. or Rumours. His best-selling album – by far – is 1993’s Greatest Hits. But when icons pass, their catalogs get re-assessed.

Some have made the case for Damn the Torpedoes or Full Moon Fever as the best Petty album, and those two – one recorded with the Heartbreakers, one sounding like it might as well have been – certainly offer quintessential Petty-brand rock. But as a complete album statement, Wildflowers tops the list for me. It had a few radio-ready hits – didn’t they all? – but on the whole it presented a softer singer-songwriter side of Petty, harmonies and strummed acoustics subbing in for the big arena-rock choruses.

So, though we’ve paid tribute to Petty before, on the one-year anniversary of his death we wanted to complete a project that we’ve been working on for a while: giving Wildflowers the Full-Album treatment. One roadblock that previously kept us from completing this was that, as in so much of Petty’s career, the hits loomed large. We found ourselves with hundreds of “You Don’t Know How It Feels” covers to choose from, but nothing for some deeper cuts.

So, to quote a band Petty revered as much as any musician, we got by with a little help from our friends. Two of the below songs are exclusives recorded just for this, the first covers – the first good covers, at any rate – of several lesser-known gems. Having songs like this sneaking under the mainstream radar is proof that Petty was, in the end, an album artist as good as they come. Continue reading »