Aspiring Artists Cover the Classics

In a bit of pre-March Madness, I’ve been binging on “The Voice”.  While the show’s been criticized for not producing huge new artists in its ten years on the air, it is great fun.

This year, three aspiring, young artists dug deep into the vaults of classic rock and folk to find 90-seconds of magic that would feature their talents and get the celebrity judges to turn their chairs.

Fifteen-year-old Caroline Burns chose the Carole King classic “So Far Away ” from “Tapestry” released in 1971.  Enjoy her snippet, and then this amazing live performance by Carole King with James Taylor, accompanying on guitar as he did on the album.

Digging slightly farther back in the annals of rock was Ryan Quinn who chose Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home”. The tune is from the 1969 one-and-only-album released by the super-group that featured Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker post-Cream, and Stevie Winwood post-Traffic. Here is Ryan’s condensed version, and a very nice solo acoustic version by the composer – Winwood himself.

The award for the deepest dig goes to Owen Danoff who covered my favorite Dylan song, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”. Here’s the performance that got Owen a spot on “The Voice”, and the original, written in 1962, from “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”. That album, by the way, was the legend’s second, and where his eponymous debut album was mostly covers, “Freewheelin'” was mostly original material. I promise that listening to the whole Dylan track won’t be a waste of your precious time.

New Music from the Titans of Rock and Roll

Over the past few weeks, and continuing into the next couple of months, a host of big name rock and roll artists are releasing new albums.  From Prince to the Foo Fighters, U2 to Weezer, and John Mellencamp to Jeff Tweedy, there is plenty already here or on the way.

A few days ago Robert Plant put out his first new album in four years, “lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar”.  While there are official music videos out for a few tracks, Plant is at his most engaging on stage.  Here are recent live performances of the album’s first two songs, “Little Maggie” and “Rainbow”.

In November Bob Dylan’s “The Basement Tapes Complete” will be released, apparently collecting every audible shred of material from the legendary 1967 sessions – a total of 138 tracks on 6 CDs. But possibly more interesting will be another November release, “Lost On The River – The New Basement Tapes”. In the fall of last year, producer T Bone Burnett received a stack of recently discovered, hand-written Dylan lyrics from Dylan’s publisher. They were written in 1967 during the time of the Basement Tape sessions but were never set to music. Burnett pulled together an all-star team including Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and Grammy winning folk artist Rhiannon Giddens to write music for the lyrics and perform the songs for a new album. Of the album’s 20 tracks recorded in the space of only two weeks, videos for two have now been released, “Nothing to It” and “Married to My Hack”.

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Jake Bugg Crosses the Atlantic

Jake Bugg’s eponymous debut album hit #1 on the British charts shortly after its release in October 2012.   Mining a different folk rock vein than his countrymen, Mumford & Sons, the 19-year-old singer-songwriter claims influences that include Johnny Cash, the Everly Brothers and Don McLean.  The album is now availabe in the U.S., and Bugg will be performing throughout the States later this year.

Give a listen to these tracks, and his website (Jake Bugg) features videos covering a good part of his debut release if you want to hear more.

While Bugg dismisses comparisons to a young Bob Dylan, pretty much every music writer has gone there.  If you want to make your own judgment, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” was released shortly after Dylan’s 22nd birthday and also reached #1 on the British charts.  We won’t hold Jake to writing the next “Blowin’ in the Wind” yet, but here are two pure acoustic performances to consider.

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