► Cover me. I’m not gonna lie: I love a good cover song. Admittedly, I don’t have any specific criteria for what makes a good cover. Could be that the cover reinvents the original song, bringing forth new musicality or meaning. Could be the cover merely mimics the original. What can I say? I like what I like.
► A motley assortment of (what I consider) good cover songs:
8 • All Along the Watchtower • Jimi Hendrix ► The quintessential cover song.
7 • House of the Rising Sun • The Animals ► A tune of uncertain origins but considered to have folk roots, this song has been covered in just about every musical genre and by the likes of such greats as Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Doc Watson, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Woodie Guthrie, Joan Baez, and the Supremes.
6 • Me & Bobby McGee • Janis Joplin ► Feeling good was good enough for me.
5 • Mary Jane’s Last Breakdown • Keller and the Keels ► A twangy rendition that combines Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ hit songs “Last Dance with Mary Jane” and “Breakdown.” Sort of a bluegrassy novelty for Petty fans.
4 • Shady Grove • Mudcrutch ► Turnabout is fair play: A rock rendition of a bluegrass classic…by Tom Petty and members of his early band (Mudcrutch). One of my all-time personal favorites.
3 • Angel from Montgomery • Susan Tedeshi ► Penned by the influential singer-songwriter John Prine, this song has been widely covered, maybe mostly notably by Bonnie Raitt. I like rich musical accompaniment and bluesy vocals of this cover. And working in the Grateful Dead’s “Sugaree” in the last verse is bonus.
2 • Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right • Peter, Paul & Mary ► Scoff if you must, but I think this tender, simplified version of Dylan’s work is enriched by the vocal harmonization and the acoustic guitar backing.
[ Sidebar: The second Bob Dylan cover on this playlist. Several playlists could be filled with just Dylan covers… ]
1 • Billie Jean • the Civil Wars ► A stripped down acoustic, nearly acapella, cover of Michael Jackson’s hit song. Just so so good. Like eyes-rolling-into-the-back-of-your-head good. ■
► Bonus Track » Landslide • the Smashing Pumpkins ► » While I still prefer the original Fleetwood Mac version, this cover is sensitive and moving. Few artists can take on a Stevie Nicks vocal and make it sound even decent. But Corgan does so, and this ballad proves his band is not just a rat in a cage (despite all its rage).
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graphics, text © 2016 hilary hall photograph by Stephen Niemeier courtesy of Pexels
► In the queue » Songs for the lovelorn •