As we roll into the dog days of the Pandemic there seem to be a lot of cover songs and cover-centric albums out in the atmosphere. Where typically an artist will release covers between albums, or as part of a contractual agreement to release a certain number of albums, these days it is more about musicians not being able to get into the studio, and instead are digging into their treasure chests of favorite artists that influenced them. I for one, think it’s great.
Rock is the new Roll favorite Pitbull lends his “Fireball” spin paying tribute (sort of) to Frankie Valli.
Our favorite female duo First Aid Kit absolutely slay Willie’s “On The Road Again” leaving us scratching our heads wondering why this is the first time this ode to artists and their burning desire to get back on the road has been covered during the pandemic.
And, another Rock is the New Roll favorite, Lizzy Hale jumps in on they Whitney classic “I Will Always Love You,” and does so quite admirably.
Here a five cool records our ears are spinning to this week.
Whitney – Candid
The mellow Indie Pop band Whitney is essentially the duo of Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek, formerly of the highly excellent band Smith Westerns. On this, their third proper full-length record, they offer up a set of covers that with the possible exception of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” a collaboration with the band Waxahatchie, are more B-side selections from some of their favorite artists as well as musicians that have influenced them.
The smooth stylings here float dangerously close to Yacht Rock territory, but here, presented as they do on this record, it is definitely not a bad thing. You can be forgiven if you have never heard of the musician Moondog, not many of us have, but here, Whitney spins his song “High on a Rocky Ledge” into a sort of Hall and Oates anthem, their version of The Roches “Hammond Song” is frankly better than the semi-annoying original, and on “Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying” the tempo picks up slightly on the Labi Siffre song.
There’s a lot to enjoy and explore on this one.
Biffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings
A splendid return for the Scottish band Biffy Clyro. Somewhat of a start and stop affair with frenzied Pop anthems interspersed with introspective balladry, sometimes in the same song, the diversity in textures is one of the things that makes this highly listenable record so special and intriguing. There are plenty of festival-ready anthems to savor here most interestingly “The Champ” and “Tiny Indoor Fireworks.”
Arlo McKinley – Die Midwestern
This one is going to be a candidate for the end of the year best-of lists, for sure. From the opening salvo “We Were Alright” where the song “Luckenbach Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” is namechecked, it is clear why this was the last artist that John Prine signed to his Oh Boy record label.
A hard-worn semi-overnight success McKinley was discovered by Oh Boy record major-domo Jody Whelan after seeing him play the High Watt in Nashville where he was subsequently introduced to John Prine. When you combine his Appalachian drawl of a voice, his age-weary experience at age 40 along with his detailed minds-eye songwriting talent, it is clear that the torch is well passed.
Tanya Donnely and the Parkington Sisters- Tanya Donnely and the Parkington Sisters
Here, presented to us is another covers record that eclectically interprets artists and songs that have not received the amount of exposure that they deserve. Tany Donnely, formerly of Throwing Muses, The Breeders, and Belly delightfully weaves her magic around “Ocean Rain,” her too spot-on take on the Pretenders “Kid,” the clear hi-lite “Let Me Roll It” as well as a couple more deep nuggets from the past. “Different Drum” should never again be sung by anyone other than Linda Ronstadt. By official decree, of course.
Levellers – Peace
From across the pond, Brighton, England, The Levellers are one of those bands that seem tailor-made for the major festival circuit. Not to say that they are not a great band, they are, however you could very much see in your minds-ear the fest-fans being whipped into a frenzy dancing wildly to the likes of “Food Roof Family” and the equally ear-catching”Generation Fear.” Don’t sleep on “Born That Way” either. This may be one of the best songs of the year.