Not that long ago, Austin, TX musicians Dawn and Hawkes were finalists in our Intel Superstars competition. Garnering comparisons to Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, this real-life couple turned folksy duo recently took to the The Voice to perform their cover of The Beatles‘ “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” Within seconds of their opening lines Adam Levine (Maroon 5) and Shakira had already expressed interest, with Levine saying that it was his “favorite performance [he’s] ever seen on The Voice.” In the end, they chose Levine. You can watch it all unfold below. (more…)
The sweet, timeless, close harmony awesomeness of the Everly Brothers is compelling bait for musicians. The material has been covered time and again by notable fans of the duo, whose string of hits in the ’50s and ’60s place them forever among the greats of early rock and roll and influenced generations of songwriters. Look no further than the classic “Love Hurts,” recorded first by the Everlys and hundreds of times since, including hit versions by Roy Orbison, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, Nazareth, and Joan Jett.
That bait was enough to bring together two unlikely bedfellows – Norah Jones and Green Day‘s Billy Joe Armstrong. The pair leave their trademark smooth jazz and pop-punk stylings, respectively, at the door to pick up where Parsons and Harris left off, delivering a tribute to an entire album, 1958’s Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.
Man, did we want to make fun of this. But we can’t. It’s too good, too faithful to the music and too full of the natural gifts of these two artists to be dismissed. Check out the first track being streamed by Warner Bros, along with a lengthy Q&A with Jones and Armstrong, over at Stereogum.
Counting Crows are a bunch of geeks…but in a good way. Granted, they found a way to connect with the mainstream successfully enough to become a multi-platinum band, but it’s always been pretty plain to see that they’re the kind of guys who could easily come to blows over which was the greatest Smiths album ever. One of the most blatant tell-tale signs is their long-standing practice of inserting expertly chosen cover tunes into their concerts, interpreting songs by an eclectic array of artists, from “The Ghost in You” by the Psychedelic Furs to “Blues Run the Game” by little-known folk trailblazer Jackson C. Frank.
Counting Crows’ new album, Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation), is their first release since ending their long-term association with Geffen Records, so it shouldn’t seem too surprising that their first order of business after stepping outside of major-label land is cutting a covers record. As expected, their choice of tunes to occupy the album reflects the continuing fandom they feel for music despite their rock-star status, so digging into the sources of the songs on Underwater Sunshine should not only allow us to delve deeper into the album, but ought to illuminate our impression of Counting Crows too.
Romany Rye is a newish band named after a ninteenth century British novel, and their mix of moody folk-rock and twangy, country-kissed Americana makes the SoCal outfit seem a little like torch-carriers for Counting Crows’ aesthetic flame. Leading off Underwater Sunshine with a song by an unknown band (one of several such examples here) is further evidence of the Crows’ earnest passion for other artists’ work.
When The Jayhawks first got together in 1985 Minneapolis, Gram Parsons and The Louvin Brothers did not enjoy the same kind of default-option status they command as rock-band influences today. Country-rockers were thin on the ground, outside a brace of “cowpunk” left-fielders like The Long Ryders and Jason & The Scorchers. Led by Mark Olson and Gary Louris, The Jayhawks had even more of an uphill climb on their homefront, which was doubly galling since their town had become quite the hotspot. “This town was crazy,” recalls Louris, “it was on the map, it was our time. Minneapolis was it in the mid to late ˜80s.” But the biggest things coming out of that city were the rough-edged post-punky sounds of such seminal acts as The Replacements, Soul Asylum and Husker Dü. And on the other side of the spectrum, as Louris remembers, “There was a whole ˜nother layer going on, which was Prince and The Time.” And even though The Jayhawks sported a much more aggressive sound in those early days than what the world would hear on their first album, they were just as far from the sexed-up, New Wave-tinged R&B of Morris Day and company as they were from the raw-boned rockers. “We played loud, punky, uptempo, feedback versions of Woody Guthrie songs and Hank Williams songs when we first started,” Louris reveals, and people were into it, but they didn’t know exactly what it was.”
The Jayhawks knew what it was, though, and at the time, that was enough. By the time they released their debut record a year later, they were a more refined lot, who had soaked up not only the sounds of country, but folk-rock, power-pop and more. “The Byrds are certainly one of my Top 5,” says Louris, “but also, Mark Olson and I, when when we first started singing, we listened to a lot of things like The Louvin Brothers and The Everly Brothers¦along with The Beatles and soul music. We listened a lot to The Band, Dylan‘s Desire, and Big Star, and I remember we were really into Nick Drake, all of those things were floating around in our band.” By their second album, 1989’s Blue Earth, they’d perfected the Byrds-meet-Everlys harmony vocals that would become their trademark. “‘Two Angels,’ we sang the whole song through together,” remembers Olson, “We kind of developed our own sound with the harmonies.”
The EditoriaList is the devious brainchild of one Scott Janovitz, who will use this space to summarize, in convenient list form, the best and worst of whatever occurs to him. Anything related to music, anyway. Janovitz claims to be a Boston-based writer, music producer and award-winning singer and songwriter, but according to the research we can piece together is more likely a petty thief. He is highly opinionated but will begrudgingly listen to those who disagree with him in order to explain to them why they are wrong.
10. Light of Day (1987)
Who in 1987 wasn’t waiting for the Michael J. Fox – Joan Jett big screen pairing? The only question was what the vehicle would be. A rom-com? Sci-fi thriller? A Tango & Cash“esque buddy cop action-comedy? A Back to the Future sequel where Marty meets The Runaways in 1977? To everyone’s surprise, what we got was an unexpectedly gritty family drama, centering on the relationship between brother and sister Joe and Patty (Fox and Jett), who perform together in a struggling E Street-esque bar band called The Barbusters. I have just told you the worst part of the movie. The Barbusters. This blow is softened by the appearance of the great Michael McKean as a band member”one of McKean’s THREE appearances on this list.
Paul Schrader, writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, wrote and directed this film and in fact commissioned a song by Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen came back with Born In The U.S.A. but decided to keep that one for himself. Too bad, it could have been a hit. The Barbusters do a decent job with his alternate effort, the title song Light of Day.” And, hey, look, Michael J. Fox can sing. This begs the question”what the hell, Robert Zemeckis? The idea it’s Fox’ voice singing Johnny B. Goode in Back to the Future is the least credible part of a movie about a time traveling DeLorean that runs on plutonium.
9. 8 Mile (2002)
Everyone said Eminem was basically playing himself in this film about an aspiring rapper from Detroit with a fucked-up mom and few prospects aside from an innate and unique lyrical flow. But it’s a mistake to go into this thinking it’s the Eminem Story. Em and director Curtis Hanson wisely keep Em’s character B-Rabbit sullen and low-key. The rapper is not a great actor, but he plays this one just right, with visibly crippling insecurity and remarkably restrained rage. The cleverness of the impromptu rhymes staged on street corners and at club battles are just short of believable, but (spoiler alert) at the end, when B-Rabbit destroys all comers with Eminem’s signature delivery, disbelief is easily suspended. Eminem won an Oscar for the great lead song Lose Yourself.