Today’s Top 5: New Artists, Old Songs

I’m always stoked to discover a new musical artist – and such was the case last week, while researching the Top 5: Wales list. The plan, born after a recent listen to Duffy’s Rockferry album, was simple: spotlight retro acts. Once I added the School and Yearning, however, I narrowed in on Wales, as all three hail from there. And then I came across Greta Isaac. She doesn’t mine a retro style, per se, but a timeless sound.

She looks to be – what? All of 20? And yet, if the songs on YouTube are any indication, she has an old soul. (I should know more in the weeks to come, as I ordered her two EPs.) Which leads to today’s Top 5: New Artists, Old Songs. (And by “new,” I mean relatively.)

1) Greta Isaac – “House of the Rising Sun.” One song on her YouTube channel that leapt out and struck me is her haunting cover of “House of the Rising Sun” – she credits it as an Animals cover, which for most folks it likely is, but the song actually dates to long before 1964, when Eric Burdon & Co. released their version. (This Wikipedia entry goes into great detail about its history.) In any event, to my ears, hers is a remarkable rendition.

2) The Staves – “I’m on Fire.” As I said above, Greta mines a timeless sound. So do the Staves, whose If I Was album is in the running for my illustrious Album of the Year honors. I’ve shared this video before, I think, but it’s well worth sharing and watching again, as they blend their voices on a wondrous cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire.”

3) First Aid Kit – “Stand by Your Man”/“Those Memories of You.” Johanna and Klara knock the Tammy Wynette classic out of the park; and connect it with a song from Trio, the Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton collaboration from 1987.

4) Leon Bridges – “Chain Gang.” I don’t know much about Bridges, a Texas soul singer, but this is a very cool cover of the Sam Cooke classic.

5) St. Paul & the Broken Bones – “I’ve Been Loving You.” I’d never heard of this Alabama-based soul group until Wednesday night, when I watched the previous night’s Late Show With Stephen Colbert. He joined at the end on the over-stuffed jam.

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