Alt-folk artist and producer Joe Henry and I are doing double duty today, folks: Henry's amazing cover of Pale Blue Eyes appears below, but I've also guest-posted a write-up of his coverwork over at Disney cover blog Covering The Mouse for this month's "When You Wish Upon A Star Week". Thanks to CTM host Kurtis for inviting me over to play, and don't forget to head on over for the bonus Joe Henry tuneage after you're finished here!
It's hard to mistake Lou Reed for a folk artist. As primary songwriter for pre-grunge, early lo-fi champions Velvet Underground, Reed wrote for a sound wailing with feedback and screaming with the heady rush of an early rock and drug culture. And though the simpler streetmajesty of his early solo work, most notably 1972 single Take a Walk on the Wild Side, comes across as not so far off in both voice and production from contemporaries Leonard Cohen (a true folkie) or Springsteen (who has always teetered on the folk-rock edge), his work over the last few decades has tended more towards the odd, the electronic, and the experimental.
But many of today's singer-songwriters cut their teeth on their parent's Velvet Underground records long before the colored girls sang "doot doo doot" on classic rock radio. And Reed's songwriting, its vivid imagery grounded in the muted browns and grays of streetcorners and the seamy underbelly of urban life, still speaks to a generation growing up alienated from place, in part by the very medium that carries these words from me to you. Covers of Lou Reed's work are everywhere, and more often than not, they sound like folk.
Today in celebration of the singer-songwriter as folk artist, we present a quintet of Lou Reed covers by a set of musicians from the periphery of folk. The cuts below mostly feature young and blog-popular indie musicians, though I'm allowing father figure Joe Henry into the fold because of his work producing such neo-folk musicians as Teddy Thompson and ani difranco. Though few of these folks self-identify as folk artists, their primarily acoustic, rough-voiced, low-production styles ground them in the genre nonetheless, even as these same qualities call to the original tone and temper of Reed's beautifully brokenvoiced anthems of broken boulevards and counterculture dreams.
- Martha Berner, Sunday Morning (orig. Reed/Cale)
- Clem Snide, I'll Be Your Mirror
- Cat Power, I Found a Reason
- Iron and Wine w/ Calexico, All Tomorrow's Parties
- Joe Henry, Pale Blue Eyes
If you're old, like me, you've probably got your old Velvet Underground and Lou Reed albums packed away on their original vinyl format; you can upgrade for the digital age here, and get Lou Reed's newer work via Hi Fidelity.
All other artists listed today sell their disks directly through their web pages or labels; just click on their names to buy and browse: Martha Berner, Clem Snide, Cat Power, Iron and Wine w/ Calexico, Joe Henry.
Today's bonus coversongs:
- Dan Zanes and Lou Reed cover What A Wonderful World
- John Cale covers Leonard Cohen's ubiquitous Hallelujah
- Joe Henry covers When You Wish Upon A Star, and I write about it