Category: Lavender Diamond

Popfolk Thursday: The Living Sisters
cover Nancy Wilson, Bessie Smith, ABBA, Little Feat, Tom Waits & more
…plus new recordings from Harper Simon and Brandi Carlile

February 11th, 2010 — 06:46 pm

In trio form, the sweet-voiced ladies of The Living Sisters – LA-based songstresses Eleni Mandell, Inara George of The Bird and the Bee, and Lavender Diamond frontwoman Becky Stark – come off as something akin to a modern version of The Roches, with the production and harmony dynamics of a particularly delicate, indie-fied country girl group. In case you’re new here, from our perspective, this combination is a very good thing indeed.

Love to Live, the upcoming debut from the new femmepop supergroup, is already moving through the bloggiverse like a tsunami, garnering good reviews on the strength of the three performers’ history and new original single Double Knots, which is available all over the place. But both coverlovers and fans of the particularly smooth, production-driven indie popfolk sound which the performers share in common would be well served by putting Love To Live‘s March 30th release date on their calendars on the merits of both the delicate covers streamed with permission below, and the previous work of all three ladies.

  • The Living Sisters: How Glad I Am (orig. Nancy Wilson)
  • The Living Sisters: Good Ole Wagon (orig. Bessie Smith)

Bonus points: it’s not folk, but with the Greyboy All-Stars behind them, The Living Sisters get funky on a totally different version of How Glad I Am originally posted in December over at Rollo & Grady. The setting, a year-end mega-feature in which 60 artists picked their favorite releases of 2009, is worth visiting on its own merits, of course.

In other cover news on the radar, Brandi Carlile‘s new iTunes-only Valentine’s Day EP XOBC has three great originals and two covers: a rendition of The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love which is so blandly interchangeable with the original it’s hardly worth the cost, and an utterly redemptive, heartbreakingly delicate indie-acoustic version of Bryan Adams’ 80s pop hit Heaven which shows that Brandi at her best is truly something very, very special. Out of respect for the small-scale release, I’ll not post the new stuff, but her older Ray Lamontagne cover and this more recent Willie Nelson cover are well worth reviving in honor of the occasion.

Finally, Harper Simon‘s recent NPR studio visit reveals a penchant for ragged singer-songwriter folk with a hint of No Depression Americana, at least in solo morning-after mode. Not bad for a guy older than I am, who cut his chops as a back-up guitarist on tour with his famous father before heading out to Berklee College to emerge as an indie musician.

Harper has taken his sweet time finding fame, but seems perfectly grateful just to be forging ahead on his own time, polishing an on-album sound that ranges from alt-country to indie twee; the result is surprisingly good, and worth sharing. His recent self-titled debut sports guest spots from both Eleni Mandell and fellow second-generation artist Inara George, making it a fitting addition to today’s post, as well. Here’s his Cure cover from the NPR session; you can hear more there, and order up at Harper Simon’s MySpace page.

1,065 comments » | Brandi Carlile, Eleni Mandell, Harper Simon, indiefolk, Lavender Diamond, The Bird and The Bee

Rock ‘n Roll is Here To Stay: Mellencamp, Madonna, and the Philly Soul of Gamble and Huff

March 8th, 2008 — 02:26 am

A small but select group of big names in the music world will be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this Monday. I’ve got a Single Song Sunday feature on oft-covered fellow inductee Leonard Cohen scheduled for Sunday, and I couldn’t find any folk covers of the theme to Hawaii 5-0, but to whet your appetite a bit, here’s a few choice covers of and from three other artists who will be strutting their way across the stage to get their due.

As songwriters and producers, Philadelphia soul pioneers Gamble and Huff had their fingers in the pies of thousands of songs; separately and together they’ve made 170 gold and platinum records, and you know a bunch of them, including the theme to Soul Train. They’re also one of the few major players known for celebrating the use of their music for remixes and as hip-hop beats. Here’s a few choice covercuts from their stable of songs. (Winehouse song removed, as it was not a cover after all.)

The roots rock of John (Cougar) Mellencamp transformed my childhood when a family friend who wrote music reviews for a national weekly gave me a copy of Scarecrow; up until that point, other than a few pop 45s, the only records I owned were Thriller and a used copy of the Bee Gees greatest hits. Today, every time I post a song, I’m paying it forward. Here’s two surprisingly well-done Mellencamp tributes to his folk predecessors.

The wholesale reinvention which typifies Madonna, both as a musician and a cultural icon, is essentially anathema to the whole authenticity thing that practically defines the folkworld; as such, it’s especially hard to find earnest acoustic covers of Madonna songs. Neither of the two male coverartists below can keep from laughing at the sheer audacity of trying to take their live covers seriously. All three versions are lighthearted romps worth hearing nonetheless.

We’ll be back Sunday with a short but solid set of covers of my second favorite Leonard Cohen song. Hint: it’s not Hallelujah.

1,033 comments » | Beth Orton, Billy Bragg, Eva Cassidy, Gamble and Huff, Jack Johnson, John Mellencamp, Keb' Mo', Lavender Diamond, Madonna, Ryan Adams