On any given Monday, you can stumble upon something so completely brilliant, you can't help but smile so broadly that it looks like you swallowed an entire double fudge chocolate cake. That happened to me about 10 minutes ago.
Out here in Los Angeles there is a prominent indie-music show on one of the public radio stations each weekday morning called Morning Becomes Eclectic. I rarely listen to it mostly because the host, Nic Harcourt, can come across as a pretentious sod, but this morning the radio was still on the station because I had been listening to the NPR news. So I was only half paying attention when the first song of Harcourt's show came on. And for a second I was unclear of what I was hearing. What the heck, I thought, was Journey doing on a music program that highlighted unknown or offbeat acts? What's more, it was an old Journey song, "Don't Stop Believing," a song I had learned to hate when those damnable Chicago White Sox adopted it for their fight song during their World Series championship year in 2005. But yet - it wasn't Journey. Yeah, it was the song, but the voice singing definitely wasn't Steve Perry. And that's when I realized that what I was hearing was a cover, only it was a woman who was singing it - and, in fact, also performing every instrument, Bobby McFerrin style.
Luckily, the Morning Becomes Eclectic Web site includes an instant playlist feature, so I was quickly able to ascertain the identity of whom I was hearing. Her name is Petra Haden. She is a New York-born singer and violinist who has played with several indie bands and performed with famous acts such as Beck, Luscious Jackson, Foo Fighters and Green Day. She comes from a very musical family, including her two triplet sisters, one of whom is married to Jack Black. And she has carved herself a niche as a solo artist, but not a typical one. Haden's speciality is covering iconic songs with her whimsical and versatile voice as her sole instrument. For example, you have to hear her versions of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" (both available for free on her Web site) to believe them. And in 2005 she released a note-for-note remake of the classic album The Who Sell Out, a recording that prompted no less than Pete Townshend himself to gush out accolades about Haden's accomplishment. "I felt like I'd received something better than a Grammy," he said to the Boston Globe about Haden's homage of an album.
According to her Web site, Haden is working on another a cappella album (I suspect that's where her version of "Don't Stop Believing" may be found) and is doing some gigs in the L.A. area. I strongly advise you to keep track of her creative output in the coming weeks and months, and see if it doesn't put a smile on your face. It may even make you appreciate Journey all over again - or at all, actually.
P.S. Haden's version of "Don't Stop Believing" can be heard on this MySpace page as part of the "various artists" CD Guilt by Association.