The rogue western figure has been making its way back into pop culture recently, not only with musicians like country artists like Jamey Johnson and Kacey Musgraves, but also in television and movies, most notably with the Elmore Leonard (RIP) adapted FX series Justified. Between Justified’s season finale Tuesday night and the Archer season surrounding Cherlene turning into an outlaw country star (“OUTLAW COUNTRY!”), here are our 10 favorite country outlaws.
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Today, we are looking at the top ten folk artists of all time. I think at the end of piecing this list together, none of us were particularly happy that some of our individual favorites didn’t make it. But that’s what happens when three individuals make a list this comprehensive. Setting that aside, let’s venture into the wonderful world of folk music through a little exercise I like to call Folk University – or Folk U. Sorry about the bad pun, but I couldn’t help myself this time.
Folk music has a lot of definitions, so we tried to stick to artists that have a wealth of material that would widely be considered “folk music”. This cut a couple borderline people out, but thus is the process of trying to form these lists. Each of the next ten artists holds a special place in our heart for one reason or another. Let us know who we left out, and who some of your favorite folkies are. Enjoy!
10. Nick Drake
Nick Drake burned extremely bright for a few years before dying of a drug overdose. He remains mysterious in almost all ways except for his talent, highlighted by his breathy vocals and vocal style that Trey Anastasio has clearly taken a few cues from.
Folk U Mandatory Listening: “One of These Things First”
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The Avett Brothers with Justin Townes Earle
September 28th, 2012
Charter One Pavilion
A handful of friends including fellow LxLer Todd came into town for the weekend, and what better way to start the weekend than catching two quality folk acts under the city lights on Lake Michigan. It was my first trip to Charter One Pavilion, the make-shift venue thrown up in the summer on Northerly Island, the attached peninsula on the lake front where Adler Planetarium lies, and it was a great one. This was quite a venue for a folk legacy like Justin Townes Earle and a folk band in Avett Brothers that has only grown more confident and comfortable on stage in the recent years.
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After the painful experience of reviewing Neil Young’s new cover album, Americana, we decided to go back to some of our old favorites, and create a list of the top ten cover albums. It was surprisingly difficult to find a comprehensive list of cover albums that have even been released, so I am certain we are missing a couple of classics, but also was very happy with strength of the list we came up with. Another couple items of note is that the album needed to be 75% covers to be considered and a lot of 1950’s and 60’s albums were not considered. A lot of early Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc. albums were comprised mostly of covers because that’s just the way the music business was run back then. Somebody would have a minor hit, then ten artists would cover it to bandwagon and try to copy its success.
So what makes a great cover album? There are a lot of opinions on that, but we firmly believe it is not enough to simply mimic already great songs. What we like to see is an artist keep the feeling of the original but substantially change the arrangement. Also great is when an artist manages to rescue a song from obscurity and make it completely their own. There is not absolute formula to a great cover song or album, but as with most of our list the following selections hit us the hardest. On to the list.
10. David Bowie – Pin Ups
Bowie’s lat album with The Spiders from Mars was a tribute album to some of his favorite tracks from the 60’s. Pin Ups contains classic songs from The Who, a lesser known track from Pink Floyd’s most underrated era, a Kinks track for the ages, and some lesser-known bands that I probably would have never been turned onto otherwise such as The Pretty Things and The Easy Beats. All of these things fused with the Bowie twist means it is a sure-fire instant eargasm.
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