Tag Archives: covers

New Titus Andronicus video: We’re Coming Back

Video: Titus Andronicus – “We’re Coming Back”

Directed by Ray Concepcion. Single out now on Merge.

Speaking of training montages, watch Patrick Stickles get himself back into fighting shape by trading his Modelos for smoothies, tuning up the van, and working out.

“I do not claim to be any kind of athlete,” Stickles says, “and after three intense days of shooting this video, I have been, and continue to be, more sore than ever before. It’s rough getting old, but I have never shied from suffering for my art, nor do I intend to pursue a path of such cowardice in the future.”

So what does the future hold for Titus Andronicus? Nobody’s saying anything definitive right now but this cover of the 1983 punk anthem is a not-particularly-subtle clue that we can expect new music and shows. Hopefully soon.

“All I can tell you right now is that Cock Sparrer gave us the most open-hearted and uplifting song in all of British punk’s second wave, perhaps even of any wave, foreign or domestic. I have wept to this song many times over the years, and it is a joy to share our version with the world.”

It’s a joy to hear it.

Don’t get worried, don’t get scared
We’re fighting to get there
Never doubt we’re gonna get through
We’re gonna run, we’re gonna crawl, kick down every wall
It won’t be long we’re coming back to you.

Titus Andronicus: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Titus Andronicus video: We’re Coming Back

New Cat Power video: A Pair Of Brown Eyes

Video: Cat Power – “A Pair Of Brown Eyes”

Directed by Jim Jarmusch. From Covers, out now on Domino.

I originally heard the Pogues on tapes that a friend had dubbed for me. With no liner notes, I had no idea which songs were originals and which were traditional. I assumed most of the material was punked up versions of Irish standards. It was a thrill to find a Clancy Brothers record in the 99-cent bin, and their version of “Whiskey You’re the Devil” made great mixtape fodder, especially followed up by the Pogues’ “Streams of Whiskey” (a Shane MacGowan original, it turns out).

MacGowan has always written material that sounds like it’s been around forever, like he’s plucked timeless material out of the ether. Chan Marshall has a similar ability to make her covers her own and to write original songs that seem like they could be interpretations of classics.

And now beloved indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch has directed the video for Cat Power’s latest single.

Jarmusch says, “As someone who deeply loves Cat Power’s music, getting to collaborate with Chan on this video was like a dream come true. She’s so inspiring to me, of course as an artist, but she’s also just such an extraordinary person.”

Continue reading New Cat Power video: A Pair Of Brown Eyes

Ghost Musicians in the Cloud

In 1948 Stan Jones, who had received a master’s degree in zoology from University of California-Berkeley, a rodeo competitor, actor, singer, songwriter, and one-time National Park Service employee in Death Valley, wrote a cowboy song about ghost riders in the sky. He and his Death Valley Rangers recorded “Riders in the Sky,” which was then covered by an array of other musicians.

For example, there was Burl Ives, whose version spent six weeks on the Billboard chart in 1949, peaking at 21.

There was another recording, this by Vaughn Monroe and the Moon Men. (Evidently this had nothing to do with Outer Space; Monroe’s signature tune was “Racing With the Moon,” which was released in 1941 and became a million seller—by 1952. Monroe, who was a big band leader, also performed with the Moonmaids, from ’46 to ’52.)

Bing Crosby recorded “Riders in the Sky.” His version made it to 14 on the Billboard charts.

Miss Peggy Lee recorded the song.

In the cases of Ives, Monroe, Crosby and Lee these songs were all recorded in the Spring of 1949. This means that within a year Jones’s original was released then covered multiple times and those multiples were all vying for airplay at approximately the same time.

Lawrence Welk and His Orchestra recorded an instrumental version of “Riders” in 1961, the same year The Ramrods released its instrumental version that includes various cowpoke-related overdubs. (The Ramrods was formed in 1956 by sister and brother Claire and Rich Litke; Claire played drums for the band. Meg White wasn’t born until 1974.)

Johnny Cash took up the reins in 1979. Cash added the “Ghost” to the title and his version was on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart for 16 weeks; it made it to number 2.

Continue reading Ghost Musicians in the Cloud

(Un)faithful: Coldplay, Catalogues and Covers

Here’s an interesting development vis-à-vis the existence of a band, a perennial theme in this space (about which Henry Melrose tells me, “You’re not beating a dead horse because you’ve been at it so long that all that’s left are the shoes”).

Chris Martin of Coldplay said in an interview on BBC Radio 2 last week regarding the group, “Our last proper record will come out in 2025 and after that I think we will only tour.”

He added, “Maybe we’ll do some collaborative things but the Coldplay catalogue, as it were, finishes then.”

And on the topic of said catalogue, Martin said to NME earlier this year, “We’re going to make 12 albums.”

Presumably “proper record” means “studio album.”

So, for those of you not counting, Coldplay’s first album, Parachutes, dropped in 2000. It was followed by A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002), X&Y (2005), Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008), Mylo Xyloto (2011), Ghost Stories (2014), A Head Full of Dreams (2015), Everyday Life (2019), and Music of the Spheres (2021).

Which is to say that there will need to be three more albums before they’re done. Given the cadence with which it had been putting out music, it is going to have to speed things up if the end is 2025.

Continue reading (Un)faithful: Coldplay, Catalogues and Covers

New Cat Power video: Pa Pa Power

Video: Cat Power – “Pa Pa Power”

From Covers, out 14 on Domino.

Nobody covers a song like Chan Marshall. And she knows it. Covers will be the third Cat Power collection of cover songs after The Covers Record (2000) and Jukebox (2008). Having two albums in your discography named The Covers Record and Covers may suggest a lack of creativity or imagination, but the originality of the performances and the eclecticism of the song selections more than make up for it.

This time around she’s taking on a tune by an Oscar-nominated actor’s side project band. “Pa Pa Power” was originally written by Ryan Gosling and his pal Zach Shields and recorded with a children’s choir. As laughable as this concept sounds in theory, it received good reviews and is actually pretty cool sounding. Way better than Johnny Depp’s band.

Marshall says: “I started playing this solo in 2012 (originally more dissonant and trance-y), when the Occupy Wall street protests were going on. Occupy was bunkering down and saying, ‘This shit’s fucking fucked up.’ And helping citizens be a voice in their local government. They got a lot of good things done, but the American media killed the movement. I felt like this song was relative to that. The American media has always penalized any sort of social progressiveness and is always the first to express conservative rhetoric against something that is beneficial to the nation. I’d open with this song on the 2013 China tour. ‘Burn the streets, burn the cars.’”

Continue reading New Cat Power video: Pa Pa Power

New Bill Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy: The Wild Kindness (ft. Cassie Berman)

Video: Bill Callahan & Bonnie Prince Billy “The Wild Kindness” (ft. Cassie Berman)

Directed by Ben Berman. Single out now on Drag City.

It’s David Berman week, apparently. Yesterday, we featured the video for a song by a member of what was supposed to be Berman’s touring incarnation of Purple Mountains, and today we have a cover of a Silver Jews classic by his Drag City labelmates and his widow.

Bill Callahan and Will Oldham have been releasing covers of classic tunes throughout the pandemic. My favorite of these has been their version of Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” but this one’s pretty good too.

They recruited an army of singers for it. In addition to Cassie Berman, they’ve also got Elisa Ambrogio, Meg Baird, Ben Chasny, Bill MacKay, Haley Fohr, David Grubbs, Cory Hanson, Emmett Kelly, Matt Kinsey, Sean O’Hagan, David Pajo, Todd Rittmann, Alasdair Roberts, Matt Sweeney, Mick Turner, George Xylouris, Azita Youssefi. That’s like half the Drag City roster!

Callahan says, “The infrastructure of this song should set an example to politicians of all type—everybody sings of wild kindness.”

Not sure it can hold a candle to the original but it was probably cathartic to record and maybe even fun. The video is hilariously silly.

Bill Callahan: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.
Bonnie Prince Billy: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Bill Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy: The Wild Kindness (ft. Cassie Berman)

New Christian Lee Hutson: Betty

Video: Christian Lee Hutson – “Betty”

From The Version Suicides, Vol. 1, out now on Anti-.

Christian Lee Hutson’s Beginners was one of my favorite albums of 2020. Taylor Swift’s folklore was another. In a bit of pop culture synchronicity Hutson has just released an e.p. of cover songs, including a version of Swift’s song sung from the point of view of the boy in the love triangle that is explored in a trio of folklore songs along with “Cardigan” and “August.” I can geek out all day on these three songs but I’ll spare you.

“Betty” is my favorite though. It’s the one that sounds most like a real teenager. The other two songs have references to “downtown bars” and bottles of wine, but the narrator of “Betty” talks about homeroom and his skateboard and dances in gyms and it just sounds like a dopey kid who messed up and really, really regrets it.

But if I just showed up at your party
Would you have me? Would you want me?
Would you tell me to go fuck myself
Or lead me to the garden?

In The Long Pond Studio Sessions documentary Swift says something about how she’s written so many songs wishing the boy would apologize and with “Betty” she finally gets her apology. I sincerely hope Betty gives him another chance. He’s only 17, after all. He’s doesn’t know anything.

Hutson plays it straight. He doesn’t amp up the drama but he can’t bury it. On The Version Suicides, Vol. 1 he also covers Abba and Vanessa Carlton. I’m a sucker for acoustic folkie covers of pop songs. Not sure that “Betty” required this re-imagining but it’s not bad. Just not particularly necessary. The original is perfect as it is.

Christian Lee Hutson: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

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New M. Ward video: Violets For Your Furs

Video: M. Ward – “Violets For Your Furs”

Directed by Holly Andres. From Think Of Spring, out now on Anti-.

M. Ward has always been an interesting interpreter of older material. Solo and as half of She and Him, Ward has sprinkled in covers of classics and standards throughout his career. So it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise that he’s doing a tribute to Billie Holiday. It’s a little quirky to cover 1958’s Lady in Satin album in its entirety, but why not?

At the end of her career Holiday wanted to record a “pretty album, something delicate” so she enlisted easy listening bandleader Ray Ellis to arrange songs to match her voice that by this point had been damaged by years of substance abuse. Ward forgoes orchestration altogether and sticks to vocals and guitar. And, not surprisingly, it’s lovely.

He talked to Rolling Stone about what drew him to this album: “I heard Lady in Satin at a shopping mall. I had no idea what it was. Her voice sounded like distorted electric guitar paired with these really beautiful string arrangements. It was like something I’d never heard. The whole experience was kind of like a dream. […] I’ve been arranging these songs for 10 years, recording them for a couple of years. I was experimenting with different tunings to get the songs right for my voice. I was just trying my best to take my favorite elements of Ray Ellis’ arrangements and it took a lot of time.”

Anyone expecting Rod Stewart-style songbook schmaltz will be disappointed.

Proceeds from the album go to PLUS1 for Black Lives.

Continue reading New M. Ward video: Violets For Your Furs

New Jeff Tweedy: Old Country Waltz

Video: Jeff Tweedy – “Old Country Waltz” (Neil Young cover)

Live at the beloved Hideout in Chicago in support of the National Independent Venue Association Emergency Relief Fund.

The Hideout in Chicago is the best bar in the world. I think it would be hard for anybody to argue with that. I mean, it’s perfect. What more could you want in a bar? (Easier access via public transportation, perhaps, but maybe ridesharing apps have rendered that irrelevant?) Anyway…

I’m playing that old country waltz
In this empty hall, bouncin’ off the wall

Looks like this was filmed at the same time as the CBS “Saturday Sessions” that aired back in October when he was promoting Love Is The King. Maybe he still is, since it’ll be available on CD and vinyl this Friday, but the focus of this new video is the National Independent Venue Association Emergency Relief Fund, a/k/a #saveourstages. Even though the Save Our Stages Act passed Congress as part of COVID-19 Relief bill, it’s going to take months for that funding to make its way into the bank accounts of our beloved clubs and bars. So NIVA is continuing to raise money “to assist the venues at greatest risk of permanently going under.” Help if you can.

Continue reading New Jeff Tweedy: Old Country Waltz

New Bill Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy video: Deacon Blues

Video: Bill Callahan & Bonnie “Prince” Billy – “Deacon Blues (ft. Bill MacKay)

Directed by Michael Tully. Single out now on Drag City.

It’s easy to hate Steely Dan when you’re an angry young person. The music is slick and perfect and the lyrics are mean and condescending. It sounds so adult. None of that reckless teenage abandon that makes rock and roll fun and exciting.

But you know what eventually changes your perspective? The Cuervo Gold and the fine Colombian…

These days I can’t even imagine not loving the Dan. Walter Becker and Donald Fagan are hilarious, and that’s something I didn’t pick up on when I was a kid. I even respect Michael McDonald now, which is something I never would’ve believed I’d admit. And it’s not some silly ironic enjoyment of “yacht rock.” They sound great. What’s not to love?

Clearly Bill Callahan and Bonnie “Prince” Billy feel the same way. Here, they take on Becker and Fagan’s tale of a suburban loser who wishes he was a hip jazz cat with a cool nickname, and it’s beautiful.

They got a name for the winners in the world
I want a name when I lose
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues

Callahan’s broken baritone embodies the character of the narrator perfectly. In the original version Fagan makes you smirk at the guy’s chutzpa, but Callahan makes you feel genuinely sorry for him. What more could you ask for?

Bill Callahan: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Bill Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy video: Deacon Blues