The cover art for singer-songwriter Mark Erelli's latest album is a throwback. It's made out to look like a cassette, with Erelli's last name spelled out in the font that a generation of music listeners will recognize - letters that would have spelled out the tape brand Maxell.
It's all in keeping with the spirit of the new album, called "Mixtape." The ten songs are all covers of other musicians, from the Greatful Dead's "Brokedown Palace," to a soulful rendition of Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer." The album was inspired by an annual concert of cover songs Erelli performs, but covers have always been an important part of his work as a musician, even as the catalog of his own songs has grown.
"I started out as a music fan before I knew how to play music," Erelli says. "And so covering other people's songs kind of connects me back to that part of myself - or ideally means that I never lose that part.
"My suite of melodic choices and experiences I draw on for my lyrics - I'm limited in my own imagination. So when I get to step inside someone else's imagination and cover their songs, it shows me other lands that I might be able to go to eventually on my own."
Erelli and fellow musician Jake Armerding played in the Lake Effect performance studio ahead of a recent concert at Cafe Carpe in Fort Atkinson.