A wide range of artists honor esteemed forebears on disc
Jackson Browne doesn’t release a new studio album until October. But until then, fans can enjoy a recent all-star tribute album that taps into the veteran singer-songwriter’s extensive catalog, and then check out his show Saturday at the Opera House, for which a few tickets are still available. Browne is just one in a clutch of classic artists to receive props from the music community of late. Herewith, a look at seven recent tribute albums, a few of them out now, a few more coming soon.
This double-disc homage boasts some big names — Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa (“Linda Paloma”), Lyle Lovett (“Rosie”), Bonnie Raitt and David Lindley (“Everywhere I Go”), and Lucinda Williams (“The Pretender”) — interpreting Browne’s carefully crafted songs. Among the highlights is a gorgeously reverent version of “These Days” by Don Henley featuring Blind Pilot and a harmony-rich take on “Fountain of Sorrow” by Indigo Girls. (Out now) Jackson Browne plays the Opera House Saturday.
Dylan’s catalog from the 1980s hasn’t exactly been esteemed, but this recent tribute album suggests there was more to those years than a born-again conversion and dated production. A who’s who of acts, mostly from Americana circles, line up to pay homage, from Langhorne Slim & the Law’s roadhouse take on “Got My Mind Made Up” to the electronic blips and beeps that Tea Leaf Green brings to “Waiting to Get Beat.” Dawn Landes pairs up with Bonnie “Prince” Billy for an unvarnished duet of “Dark Eyes,” and Marco Benevento gives “Every Grain of Sand” an elegiac sense of wonder with his instrumental version. These interpretations are inspired enough to make you reconsider the originals. (Out now)
Considering how large a debt current country music owes to ’80s hair metal, it’s only mildly surprising that this tribute to the umlaut-loving quartet — currently on its farewell tour — works as well as it does. Contemporary musicians, from pop-leaning hitmakers like Florida Georgia Line (“If I Die Tomorrow”) to fringier rockers like the Cadillac Three (“Live Wire”) and the always eclectic Mavericks (a deliriously daffy Latin-spiced, spy-rock romp through “Dr. Feelgood”), attempt to countrify the Crüe and mostly succeed in taking the Sunset Strip to Music City. (Out Aug. 19) Mötley Crüe plays the Xfinity Center Aug. 24.
Fifty years ago country titan Johnny Cash released an album meant to shed light on the hardships facing Native Americans. This new collection, guided by the steady hand of producer Joe Henry and utilizing his crack musical associates as a backing group, features Cash peers and acolytes such as Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, and Steve Earle, as well as newer artists — including the Milk Carton Kids and Rhiannon Giddens — raising those issues again. (Out Aug. 19) Emmylou Harris plays the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts Sept. 23.
Louis Armstrong’s legacy feels like an afterthought on Dr. John’s new salute to his fellow New Orleans icon. It’s so eclectic that Satchmo rarely crosses your mind as Dr. John reimagines 13 songs from throughout Armstrong’s career with a host of guest artists. With trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and Cuban rapper Telmary, he turns “Tight Like This” into a fusion of Latin jazz and hip-hop. R&B star Anthony Hamilton gives a soulful reading of “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” and Bonnie Raitt is every shade of cool and collected on a playful duet of “I’ve Got the World on a String.” (Out Aug. 19) Dr. John plays the Grand Point North Festival in Burlington, Vt., Sept. 14.
As folk music continues to mourn the loss of its trailblazers, including Pete Seeger, who died earlier this year, Jean Ritchie doesn’t always get the respect and attention she deserves. Now in her early 90s and living in her native Kentucky, Ritchie is the subject of this two-CD tribute album honoring her work as a singer, songwriter, dulcimer player, and cultural preservationist. Kathy Mattea, Janis Ian, Oscar Brand, and Dale Ann Bradley are among the many musicians summoning the grace and simplicity of Ritchie’s songs. In one of his last recordings, Seeger does a spoken-word rendition of “I Celebrate Life,” and Judy Collins is heartbreakingly wistful on “One I Love.” (Out Sept. 2)
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen’s legendary album, a group of country, Americana, and roots musicians — including Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires (“Born in the U.S.A.”), Trampled by Turtles (“I’m Goin’ Down),” and Joe Pug (a particularly spectral “Downbound Train”) — tackles each track. Many took a page from the same noir-ish playbook, stripping back the songs and giving the album a sonically cohesive, hauntingly sparse atmosphere. (Out Sept. 16)