If you’ve not heard the name Bill Janovitz, you may know his band Buffalo Tom. Although not as big as other 90s alterna-rock giants, they were critically acclaimed and well loved for their emotional, passionate rock songs and Janovitz‘s great vocals. Although it’s been over a decade since their heyday, Janovitz has embarked on a (quietly) ambitious project to record an new cover a week, and giving them away on his blog.
Janovitz is older now, and has kids and a day job. He does a weekly residency in Boston and as a way of getting music out there, he has created this little “self-assignment”. 30 weeks in and he has yet to miss a week, although he is honest on his blog about how close he comes.
It’s one of the charms of his blogs; the stories he tells of what he has decided to cover. And what led him this week to the song. A conversation with a friend, a gig that he saw or something he read in a magazine can set him off. He also went seasonal for Christmas, New Year’s and the presidential inauguration. Reading this blog, you feel like you a peering into a man’s music diary. Which is essentially what this is.
Above all, Janovitz, a talented writer, goes on about the past. How the songs he has chosen came into his life. Stories of family, friends and poker nights that conspired to lead him to a tune, the one he’s singing for you now. It would make a great autobiography. I’m sure Nick Hornby agrees.
The range of songs Janovitz chooses is quite impressive. There’s breadth – from Hank Williams, Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, Bruce Springsteen, The Replacements, Blondie and Radiohead. But there’s also depth – little known gems by the Band (Whispering Pines), Husker Du (Hardly Getting Over It) and many others that have sent us back to the originals for another listen. Of course, quite a few gems we’ve never heard of at all. We caught a show in Boston and he covered two songs yet to appear on his blog that we loved – Neil Young‘s ‘Barstool Blues‘ and Elvis Costello‘s ‘Oliver’s Army‘.
Also mentioned a few times is a new Buffalo Tom record in the works. They still tour every now and again. I’m almost going to be sad when they do, if it interrupts this down home, intimate experiment.
Check out The Life And Times Of Bill Janovitz: Part Time Man Of Rock – http://billjanovitz.blogspot.com and get your mp3s now!
Some cool links and thoughts on Buffalo Tom after the jump. Also the fantastic videos for the Buffalo Tom classics ‘Taillights Fade‘ and ‘Wiser‘ .
If you’ve not heard Buffalo Tom, a great place to start is Asides – a greatest hits collection. Those to don’t like collections as a place to start, we recommend 1992’s Let Me Come Over, although it looks like the CD is out of print.
Buffalo Tom official site – http://www.buffalotom.com
‘Wiser’ from 1998’s Smitten
‘Taillights Fade’ from 1992’s Let Me Come Over