by Ryan McKeeman
Younger artists often start their careers covering more established artists’ well-known songs. Several of us may have even been in garage bands in high school covering the songs of our favorite artists. It’s a great way to approach music if you’re learning. As these younger professional artists do this, we, the audience, typically know and have a musical memory of the original song and original artist that is in the foreground of our experience while we’re listening to the cover.
Max Frost is doing a covers project in the same vein as Ingrid Michaelson’s ARMY of 3 project. He has versions of "Reckoner" by Radiohead, "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People and "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley that I've seen on his Facebook page (he had these on YouTube for awhile but has since made them private - ask him to put them back up!). They're excellent in a lo-fi kind of way - the Reckoner video, in particular, was shot in the same style as “Paranoia,” a single he released in late 2014. Ingrid Michaelson does a brilliantly-shot, made-for-YouTube version of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know, which may be the most covered song on YouTube...so much so that Gotye did a mashup of all the covers of his own song. That's some next-level, Russian-doll-type shit.
I love these artists. At once, they showcase the complexity AND simplicity in the songs we love while also demonstrating their own creative talent by recording all the different parts. It’s an onion thing, deconstructing a song into bite-size layers that are recorded one-by-one, looped, combined, added together and then subtracted back in the appropriate spots. Getting back to Max Frost, it even translated during the live show at the Parish when he laid down the bass track before picking up the guitar to solo over the rhythm (image above).
Then you have Tameca Jones. She has a gig as essentially the artist-in-residence at Garage Bar. She brings a sultry, soulful filter to the stage every Wednesday night translating rock and pop hits into her own brand of jazz-meets-blues-meets-soul, somewhere near the intersection of Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner. Let me just say that her versions of Burning Down the House (Talking Heads) and With A Little Help From My Friends (The Beatles) made me finally understand the Outkast-coined term, “eargasm.” Her version of The Beatles’ classic is reminiscent of Joe Cocker’s famous interpretation, yet it still manages to filter its way through her unique voice...it becomes “Tameca-fied,” if you will.
Max Frost has ventured further down the path to finding and expressing his own voice, with one EP already out and new album likely on the way. For the festival-goers, you can find him at Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware this summer...among several others.
Tameca Jones promises her first original release will be out in the Fall, featuring a single called “Hot and Bothered.” She plays next at Winflo in Austin on April 30 ($20; doors at 7PM).