Category: Evan Dando

The Folkier Side of Evan Dando:
Covers of Whitney Houston, Big Star, Metallica and more

December 2nd, 2008 — 09:54 pm

The kids in my tiny uberliberal prep school loved The Lemonheads before they were cool, and as more than just local heroes — the band had been formed in the same hallowed halls, and the oldest of our peers could still remember their presence among us. The music was perfectly adolescent, too: raw and visceral, full of feedback and fuzzy guitars; it wasn’t much more ragged than our own amateur output, and it came complete with frontman Evan Dando, who presented a grungy kind of everyteen charm, his long hair hanging down to the strings just like our own.

Being so close to the band’s origin made it hard to gage their popularity; to us, they were ours. But looking back with less localized eyes, there’s no question that Lemonheads co-founder Dando was a defining character in the distinctively hardcore, fuzzed-out East Coast branch of the burgeoning alt-rock scene which preceded and then paralleled the grunge movement of the early nineties. For a very short period, when grunge was in vogue and the Lemonheads covers of Suzanne Vega’s Luka and Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson were storming up the college charts, Dando was linked to everyone from Courtney Love to Oasis; he was even named one of People magazine’s 50 most beautiful people.

Dando’s “slacker sex kitten” days would ultimately prove as short-lived as the Boston grunge scene itself. But a decade and a half later he still has wide appeal, at least among the music bloggers. Some of this is surely due to the diversity of his contributions to a seminal period in modern music landscape — Dando reinvented the Lemonheads many times over his relatively short career, using numerous peers from the scene, including members of the Blake Babies and Dinosaur Jr., and his influence is audible in much of the movement. It’s also true that his solo output is relatively consistent, raw and almost alt-country, a sound which has its own kind of appeal among a certain kind of audiophile — it says what it needs to that one of his earliest official post-Lemonheads turns, a duet with Juliana Hatfield, was a Gram Parsons cover.

But it’s hardly a stretch to suggest that Evan Dando’s appeal is as much for his story as it is for his sound. In many ways, the man represents the same kind of greasy, undersung, haunted type as the similarly stripped-down Nick Drake, Elliot Smith, or Townes Van Zandt: the earnest, ragged troubador peering through the wall of depression and pain, looking for authenticity in the usual self-destructive ways. That he fell from such grace, so quickly, is but a part of the mythos.

In the end, Dando, unlike so many of his spiritual singer-songwriter kin, survived his dark crack cocaine days, though he released virtually nothing between 1997 and 2001 save a few guest spots, such as the aforementioned alt-countryrock cover, or his oddly orchestral-pop duet with folk-child Kirsty MacColl. But his comeback would ultimately be an acoustic one, and a good chunk of the solo work he did produced in and after these dark days are true blue singer-songwriter alt-folk, weary acoustic grunge covers of otherwise upbeat pop and rock songs, surprisingly powerful when given voice by a musician haunted by the double demons of hope and doubt. Here’s a representative set, typically ragged and sparse.

Pushing purchase links is a bit of a challenge for today’s entry: many of today’s songs live their life as unlabeled web-sourced outtakes and in-studio bootlegs, and folk fans will probably not find comfort in the output of the Lemonheads themselves. But any discriminating audiophile with diverse taste really should have The Lemonheads’ It’s A Shame About Ray, Dando solo album Baby I’m Bored, and Gram Parsons cover album Return of the Grievous Angel in her collection. Coverbloggers should also keep an eye out for Varshons, a promising-sounding all-covers album scheduled for a Spring 2009 release from Dando’s latest incarnation of The Lemonheads.

Oh, and here’s a Holiday Coverfolk bonus. Tis the season, after all.

1,740 comments » | Evan Dando, The Folkier Side Of...

Love, Afraid: Coversongs to Prepare the Heart for Valentine’s Day

February 11th, 2008 — 01:45 am

I spent all morning trying to script a post about songs which struggle with the infinite and indescribably complex mysteries of love. The idea was to celebrate this complexity, and acknowledge as valid the stuff that often holds us back from putting a name to what we feel, lest we call it wrong and mess everything up.

But every time I try to put words to love, things fall apart. Love’s like that, I think. I guess that was the point, after all.

Instead, in anticipation of Valentine’s Day, here’s a mixed bag of folk-tinged coversongs that address the myriad and multiple fears we have about love: naming it, finding it, losing it, and losing ourselves to it.

May each of us, regardless of our romantic status, find something in the words of these poets and songwriters which speaks to our secret heart – the better to withstand the oversimplified, candy-red onslaught of emotion sure to come by Thursday.

  • Feist, Secret Heart (orig. Ron Sexsmith)
    (live at KEXP; also available on Let It Die)

  • Jose Gonzalez, Love Will Tear Us Apart (orig. Joy Division)
    (from Remain)

  • Marc Cohn, I Hope I Don’t Fall In Love With You (orig. Tom Waits)
    (from the Prince & Me soundtrack; more Marc here)

  • Emiliana Torrini, I Hope I Don’t Fall In Love With You (ibid.)
    (from Merman)

  • Aimee Mann, The Scientist (orig. Coldplay)
    (live; from the Lost In Space Special Edition)

  • Evan Rachel Wood, If I Fell (orig. Beatles)
    (from the Across the Universe soundtrack; Evan’s not a recording artist, but her movies rock)

  • Jonatha Brooke, God Only Knows (orig. The Beach Boys)
    (from Back In The Circus)

  • Peter Malick Group w/ Norah Jones, Heart of Mine (orig. Bob Dylan)
    (from New York City)

  • Amy Winehouse, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (Goffin/King)
    (from the Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason soundtrack; more Amy everywhere but the Grammys)
    Link removed due to hotlinking. Please stop stealing my links — I pay for my bandwidth!

  • Nanci Griffith, Are You Tired Of Me My Darling (Cook/Roland)
    (from Other Voices, Other Rooms)

  • Eva Cassidy, If I Give You My Heart (orig. Doris Day)
    (live 1994 bootleg; more Eva here)

  • Evan Dando, How Will I Know (orig. Whitney Houston)
    (live, unknown origin; more Evan here)

    As always, all artist and album links above go to artist websites and stores, the better to show our love for the folks who speak for us when we run out of words.

    Hoping for some more traditional Valentine’s Day fare? Never fear: we’ll back Wednesday with a short, sweet romantic soundtrack for the lucky ones.

  • 870 comments » | Aimee Mann, Amy Winehouse, Emiliana Torrini, Eva Cassidy, Evan Dando, Evan Rachel Wood, Feist, Jonatha Brooke, Jose Gonzalez, Marc Cohn, Nanci Griffith, Norah Jones, Peter Malick, Valentines Day Coverfolk

    Elseblogging: Unplugged Alt-rock at Audiography

    December 6th, 2007 — 12:05 am

    Just put up a post of substance over at long-standing “collaborative music blog” Audiography, where this week’s theme is “unplugged”. Head on over for some powerful acoustic versions of pop songs performed solo (or almost-solo) by their original lead singers, plus a growing list of this week’s contributions from others in the community.

    Want a teaser or two? Here’s a song that’s worth posting twice, by unplugged alt-grunge leader of the Lemonheads. It’s not folk, but it sure sounds like it.

    Other unplugged re-cuts over at Audiography? Jeff Tweedy’s live version of I’m The Man Who Loves You, Neil Finn’s stripped down recovery of Don’t Dream It’s Over, Depeche Mode covering Johnny Cash covering Depeche Mode, and the boys of Death Cab For Cutie with a great acoustic Crooked Teeth.

    Today’s bonus folkcoversong & unplugged version (not available at Audiography):

    Back Sunday for another massive paean to the best covers of the folkworld. Enjoy the weekend!

    930 comments » | Audiography, Elseblog, Evan Dando, Rose Polenzani