Surprising Covers

Every once in a while I’ll stumble across a completely unexpected cover of a song. Sometimes it’s instantly recognizable and sometimes it’s just a nagging feeling that the song is familiar, but it takes a while for it to click. And often the cover is as good as the original, perhaps better, but it’s always an original take.

I’ll not include what could almost be called “novelty” artists who have made careers of  putting their twist on other artists’ works. Groups like Hayseed Dixie, Dread Zeppelin, or Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, while certainly entertaining, aren’t really surprising.

Another Brick in the WallKeller and the Keels – Bluegrass seems to be a comfortable arena for covers from other styles, and Keller Williams and crew do Pink Floyd justice.

Little WingMonte Montgomery – Awesome cover of a Jimi Hendrix classic. Montgomery is an astounding guitarist. How does he ever make that ratty-assed guitar sound so good?

RoyalsPentatonix – Five inhumanly beautiful people with inhumanly beautiful voices covering Lorde’s hit.

Under PressureDavid Bowie and Annie Lennox – Filmed during the Freddie Mercury benefit at Wembley Stadium several years ago.

HurtJohnny Cash – Nine Inch Nails… Johnny Cash… ’nuff said.

Abigail Washburn

Abigail Washburn is a marvelous Grammy Award winning clawhammer banjo player. After majoring in East-Asian studies and spending a few years in China, she intended to become a lawyer there. Just prior to her move to China, she spent five days meditating at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, a life changing experience, she instead went to Nashville and was offered a record deal. An amazing story.

So yeah, she’s one hugely talented and ferociously intelligent human being. Oh, and her husband is Bela Fleck.

City of Refuge – Nashville TN, 2010

Banjo Guzheng Pickin’ Girl – with Wu Fei in 2015. Awesome Chinese/ bluegrass fusion.

The Final CountDown – with Bela – truly a match made in heaven.

Radio Songs

There was an old Zenith radio that sat on a shelf in our garage for decades. It was an old tube model, brown bakelite Zenith, similar to the one on the left.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the center of get-togethers moved from the kitchen to the back yard, specifically the garage. That radio saw birthdays, wedding receptions, cookouts, tornado warnings, card games, pool parties. Nearly every weekend, doing yard work or playing, there was Ernie Harwell, announcing Tigers’ games. Or listening to WOHO, back when the station  actually played music.

So, in honor of that old radio, here are a few “radio” songs…

Border RadioThe Blasters – a great Americana rock & roll band.

Mexican RadioWall Of Voodoo – New wave band, almost a one hit wonder.

Spirit of the RadioRush – you know, Rush… Geddy freakin’ Lee!

Video Killed the Radio StarBuggles – Prophetic song that was the debut video on MTV when it began programming in 1981.

Radio GagaQueen – There are a handful of musicians who have passed that make me sad when I think of them… David Bowie, Terry Kath, and Freddie. Freddie Mercury was a singularly spectacular showman, and an amazing human being.

Ivy Levan

I first heard Ivy Levan while watching the recent remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (I know, it wasn’t the original, but still, it was entertaining). Her character, the Usherette, was adorable and enchanting. Enough so that I was compelled to find out if she was the real deal, musically speaking. As it turns out, she is.

Her music and visual style are kind of in the same general area as Madonna, Gaga, Pink, and Christina. But she definitely makes it her own, kind of a blue-eyed soul/pop sound with a bit of a mischievous wink to let you know she’s not taking it too seriously, and neither should you. But make no mistake, the woman’s got some serious pipes.

Biscuit

Hot Damn 

The Dame Says

Who Can You Trust

Keller and the Keels

Keller and the Keels is a bluegrass project featuring the trio of Keller Williams and husband and wife musicians, Larry and Jenny Keel. Together, they have released two albums, “Grass” in 2006 and “Thief” in 2010.

My attraction to their music (besides the fact that it’s solid and tight) is their bluegrass cover of everyone from Tom Petty to Pink Floyd to Amy Winehouse. Great Stuff! Well worth a listen if you like bluegrass.

Mary Janes Last Breakdown

Rehab

Another Brick in the Wall

Father John Misty

I saw Joshua Tillman, aka Father John Misty last weekend on SNL. One of the songs he performed was “Pure Comedy”, a haunting, eerie, peculiar tune. My best guess is that it’s his take on the human condition.

The best way to describe him is “unique”.   Being raised as a Southern Baptist and attending an Episcopal elementary school and a Pentecostal Messianic Jewish day school is bound to give one a interesting perspective

Definitely someone to keep on my radar.

Pure Comedy – Just wow.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings – Aubrey Plaza taking it dark.