Entries in Marah (2)


Cover Me: Bruce Springsteen

Cover Me will be a recurring feature on visible voice that will showcase exceptional or interesting covers.  Cover songs are a tricky thing; done well they can highlight influences and similarities between the covering band and the covered that may or may not be apparent at first and in rare cases even transcend the original to become something entirely new.  Done poorly and the result can reduce an otherwise great band to the level of a wedding band, or worse, me in my bedroom playing Neil Young songs on a slightly out-of-tune acoustic guitar.

The inaugural edition of Cover Me features Bruce Springsteen, the artist for which this segment gets its name.  With a new wave of artists heavily indebted to Springsteen's work, he is a natural target for the cover treatment.  However, while the songs may be musically straightforward, channeling the passion from which the songs were written and the intensity with which they are performed is a daunting and difficult task, but these bands are up to the task.  Each of bands featured below takes a classic Springsteen song and adds their own original stamp, while still paying respect to the original:

Streets of Philadelphia (Marah)
Atlantic City (The Hold Steady)
The River (Josh Ritter)
Nebraska (Deer Tick)


New music: Marah - "Valley Farm Song"

Marah circa 2007Marah, more than possibly any other band, played a huge role in shaping and refining my musical tastes.  They entered my consciousness at an extremely formative time - the year was 2001 and I was about to enter my senior year of high school.  Kids In Philly was just about the most exciting thing I had ever heard - a record that channeled the soul and grit of Tom Waits, recklessness of The Replacements and youthful idealism of Springsteen.  As the title suggests, Kids In Philly has an undeniable sense of place, but the stories and characters are universal.  What sealed the deal for me though was the live show.  The marathon shows on 2004's tour in support of 20,000 Streets Under The Sky felt to me like seeing Springsteen in the early 70s.  The band was tight, the shows were long and almost spiritual.  I was mad to live and Marah made me feel alive.  The memories of listening to their music and seeing them live will forever help define my college years.  Those long nights at TTs, Maxwells, The Southpaw, The 100 Club in London are some of the most vivid and beautiful memories I have.

Marah faced a lot of adversity over those years though.  They dealt with numerous lineup changes, critical praise came and went and came again, they shared the stage with legends - but the commercial success they deserved never really came.  After the release of 2008's Angels of Destruction the band splintered, cancelling a world tour just days before it was scheduled to start.  Serge Bielanko headed west towards fatherhood, while brother Dave held down the fort - the Marah as I knew it was done for good.  I haven't seen them live since 2006 and, which might be for the best.  

With all that as background, suffice it to say that my interest was piqued when I saw that the "new" Marah has an album coming out soon, and the first single Valley Farm Song is starting to make the rounds online.  I'm happy to report that it mostly captures the ramshackle beauty of my favorite Marah songs.  Clattering percussion, suczzy guitars and Dave's distinctive nicotine-stained voice.  Check it out, along with a few of my favorite Marah songs (one from each record):

Valley Farm Song (new)
Formula, Cola, Dollar Draft (Let's Cut The Crap and Hook Up Later On)
My Heart Is The Bums On The Street (Kids In Philly)
Soul (Float Away With The Friday Night Gods)
Pigeon Heart (20,000 Streets Under The Sky)
Sooner or Later (If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry)
Can't Take It With You (Angels of Destruction)