By Chris Moore:
As promised, I’m back after my second Jack Johnson acoustic cover song (posted on Saturday) to bring you my first installment for “New Bands Week.” Since I wanted to make sure that I’m pulling my weight around here (and considering that Jim is swiftly adding to a list of at least ten new artists he plans to cover!), I decided to bring not only one but two new bands in one day to the best cover song music blog in the universe!
Okay, so maybe I’m talking up my contribution here, since the song I chose — “Walt Whitman’s Niece” — was recorded as a collaboration between the two artists, songwriter Billy Bragg and alternative rock band Wilco. But, still… in the spirit of “New Bands Week,” two new bands!
There’s a really interesting story to go along with this cover song. This is the first track on Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue album, a collection of songs based on the lyrics of Woody Guthrie. Guthrie essentially ended up writing countless songs over his years as a songwriter, many of which he never put to music. He literally had boxes of them. I read that Guthrie actually offered them to a young Bob Dylan when Dylan went to visit him in the hospital. He even made the long trip out to Guthrie’s house, but there was only a babysitter at home and she did not want to let a stranger in. (Little did she know he would soon be anything BUT a stranger!) Then, decades later, Billy Bragg and Wilco got their hands on the lyrics, chose their favorites, and wrote music for the words. The result is an amazing album that I first learned about through my Journalism II teacher, who was also a big Dylan fan.
They came out with a sequel a few years later, simply called Mermaid Avenue Volume II, but it really wasn’t as strong as the first time around. This is simply one of those moments in rock music, in my opinion, that came down to initial inspiration. That first album is such a strong, enjoyable, and interesting collection of music. In fact, I initially wanted to record “Ingrid Bergman” (which I did and stored away for later), but then remembered about “Walt Whitman’s Niece.” I figured it would be a much stronger choice, as it is the first track on the album, upbeat, and of course, highlighted by a crazy harmonica solo that I could never duplicate. All in all, a really fun song to sing. As Jim and I figured out, it was a lot of fun to improv lyrics to the tune!
As a final note, Jim and I saw the latest Woody Allen movie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, tonight. Although I’m always a big fan of seeing him in the movies, this was a really interesting film even if he didn’t play an acting role. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the voiceovers initially, but I really got into the characters and especially the situation. I think this is one of those movies that will cause viewers to think about their own ideas about love, trust, and what their lives will be like in several decades. How do you find happiness? I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll stop here.
This may be all for today’s post, but don’t forget to rush back tomorrow for another all-new band and another all-new cover song by Jeff Copperthite. If you haven’t already, you should scroll down the home page and check out Jim and Jeff’s first picks of the New Bands Week.
See you next sesion!