August 31, 2012

Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs - Sunday Morning

This is a terrific cover of "Sunday Morning", done by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles) for their first collaborative album, "Under the Covers, Vol. 1", in 2006. The original version will always have its place; released in 1967 by The Velvet Underground on their debut album (aka the one with the iconic banana art), it is still a dreamy and surrealistic pleasure to listen to today. What Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs have brought to the table with their take is a more grounded and wistful, alt-country feel to the song. While the original was by no means plain, the music on this cover is especially lush. Similar to the original, there is an ever-present dreamy tinkling in the background, but this cover also has a strong pedal steel voice. Coupled with Susanna Hoffs' honest vocals, the pedal steel makes the song warmly evocative.

August 30, 2012

Ben Kweller - Walk On Me (Live at Buffalo Place Rocks The Harbor)

Today's featured song is the live version of "Walk On Me" from Ben Kweller's 2002 album, Sha Sha. The talented songwriter and multi instrumentalist has in recent years been developing a stronger country sound, engaging pedal steel player Kitt Kitterman for his fourth studio album, Changing Horses, in 2009. Accordingly, his older songs have sometimes been played more countrified in his live shows. This live recording of "Walk On Me" is from Ben Kweller's August 2009 performance at Buffalo Place Rocks The Harbor, Erie Canal Harbor Central Wharf. Unlike in the album version, pedal steel was played during the song, courtesy of Rich Henman.

August 29, 2012

The Pastels - Different Drum

"Different Drum" is a well-covered song, written by former Monkees member and country rock pioneer Michael Nesmith in 1965. This version is quite possibly the first twee cover, sung by Glasgow indiepop group The Pastels in 1993 for their album, "Truckload of Trouble". This is an almost cheerful cover featuring melodic guitars that give way to a more pensive pedal steel solo in the middle of the song, as the narrator tries to let his love down gently.

August 28, 2012

Son Volt - Methamphetamine

"Methamphetamine" is a song from alt-country band Son Volt's 2007 release, The Search. Its soulful pedal steel in the nostalgic opening draws one into the rest of the rich, melancholic country-flavoured song. The band's history is also interesting to mention, for fans of the alt-country genre. Following the split-up of pioneering alt-country group, Uncle Tupelo, Jay Farrar started Son Volt in 1994 while bandmate Jeff Tweedy went his separate way to form Wilco, with a more accessible, poppier direction, and the rest is illustrious history. For listeners more acquainted with Wilco, this song might be a good starting point for venturing into Jay Farrar's more country sound.

Get "Methamphetamine (Album Version)" on Amazon

August 27, 2012

Bright Eyes - Make War

"Make War" from prolific songwriter Conor Oberst's indie rock outfit, Bright Eyes, really captures the sound of his more stripped down, but no less melodic days. This song is from Bright Eyes' 2002 album, "Lifted or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground". Conor Oberst's music has always been divisive, with some criticising his songs for having pretentious lyrics, or being overly hyped. However I've found reading into his lyrics rewarding and his songs beautiful. "Make War" is a rocking but intimate, pedal steel layered song about the bitterness the narrator of the song feels when his lover betrayed him for another.

August 26, 2012

Neva Dinova - Tripped

"Tripped" is a track by Neva Dinova, from the band's excellent 2004 collaborative split EP with Bright Eyes, "One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels". A subtle layer of pedal steel is intertwined with the folksy guitar strumming driving the song. This melancholic, drunken confessional is addictive to listen to.

August 25, 2012

John Doe and The Sadies - A Fool Such As I

(Now And Then) There's A Fool Such As I by John Doe And The Sadies on Grooveshark

The classic 1952 song, "(Now And Then There's) A Fool Such As I", covered by the likes of Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan, has been given a refreshing alt-country do-over by John Doe and The Sadies. This cover version leans towards the country side of alt-country, with its mellow sound and sentimental singing against a backdrop of pedal steel.

August 24, 2012

The Bigger Lovers - Steady On Threes

"Steady On Threes", by recently regrouped The Bigger Lovers, is a catchy, alt-country-flavoured powerpop song featuring a wild swirl of guitar, drums, pedal steel and tinkling piano. The band from Philadelphia split up in 2005 and this song is from the remastered version of their debut 2001 album, "How I Learned To Stop Worrying", which garnered a 4.5 star rating and "album pick" status on allmusic. By the end of the song, you just might be as glad as I was to know that they're back together again.

August 23, 2012

The Elected - Would You Come With Me

This is a great, anxious-sounding song from The Elected, driven by pedal steel, drumming and guitar. Vocalist Blake Sennett (also of Rilo Kiley fame) sings of a character who is yearning to leave but is desperately hopeful that his lover would come with him.

August 22, 2012

The Lucksmiths - If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now

If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now by The Lucksmiths on Grooveshark
This song from the now-defunct Australian band, The Lucksmiths, opens immediately with an aching pedal steel laden intro. "If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now" is languid and softly melancholic, great for a quiet weekend afternoon of alone time.

August 21, 2012

Wilco - I Thought I Held You

Plenty of pedal steel to love in this laidback song from Wilco's 1995 A.M. album. The pedal steel flows through the song like a stream of liquid metal, its twists and bends really bringing out the wistfulness in the song.

August 20, 2012

Old 97's - Salome

I wanted to kick off this blog with recent pedal steel songs I've heard, but I couldn't think of any off the top of my head. So, I decided to turn to one of the bands that reliably incorporate pedal steel in their music, for this first post. The band is Old 97's, a group that will undoubtedly be mentioned from time to time, and the song of choice is "Salome", an emotional alt country ballad about relationship disenchantment.