Dec 152017
 

Follow all our Best of 2017 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

best covers 2017

Year-end lists are a time to look back. That’s something we’ve been doing a lot of this year.

See, we turned ten years old in 2017 – practically ancient in internet-blog terms – so we’ve indulged in what we feel is well-earned nostalgia. At the beginning of the year, each of our writers picked the ten most important covers in their life (see them here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). We even listed the ten most important covers in Cover Me‘s life, from the song that inspired the site to our very first Best of the Year winner.

Then, to cap things off, in October we commissioned a 25-track tribute to the cover song itself – which you can still download for free. We love the covers everyone contributed so much, incidentally, that we didn’t consider them for this list. It’d be like picking favorite children – if you had 25 of ’em.

Oh, and have I mentioned I wrote a book? … What’s that you say? I mentioned that constantly? Well, I’m quite proud of it. It’s called Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time and it makes a great Christmas gift and – ok, ok, I’ll stop. You can find plenty more about it elsewhere.

Suffice to say, there’s been a lot of looking back this year. And we hope you’ll indulge us this one last glance rearward before we leap into 2018. Because if it’s been a hell of a year for us, it’s certainly also been a hell of a year for the cover song in general. Some of this year’s list ranks among the best covers we’ve ever heard, period. So dig in, and thanks for your support this past decade.

– Ray Padgett
Editor-in-Chief

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Dec 122017
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs.

Happy Birthday to Ol’ Blue Eyes, The Chairman of the Board, The Voice! Francis Albert Sinatra was born on this day in 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey. America’s greatest entertainer, the most prolific of all time, made countless songs his own with his signature phrasing and style. But before his passing in 1998, how many songs did the quintessential cover artist actually write himself – not just perform? And of interest to Cover Me readers, which artists have successfully covered his songs?

Sinatra made his bones as an interpreter of other peoples’ songs. He was an artist, yes, but not the kind who labored over lyrics or composed the musical notes. A look through his vast catalog shows that he recorded nearly 1,000 different song titles with an additional 400-600 multiple recordings of the same title. A further look shows that only seven of those titles carry his name; always as a co-writer/contributor, none were penned by him alone. In a career that spanned over seven decades, those seven songs were written and originally recorded between 1941-1958 while Sinatra was between the ages of 26 and 43. In chronological order, here are the seven songs he helped write:

Continue reading »

Dec 082017
 

Follow all our Best of 2017 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

best covers albums 2017

Cover albums come and go from memory. It’s sort of inherent in the genre. When a major release comes out – a cover album by one prominent artist, or a tribute compilation by many – it tends to garner an avalanche of blog posts, then get forgotten within a year or two. Many deserve to, no doubt…but not all.

So, since we’ve been looking back a lot this year to celebrate our tenth birthday, I dug back into our previous year-end album lists. My original plan was to see which of our past #1s held up and which didn’t, but I was pleasantly surprised to find they were all still enjoyable. But many, even those that were big deals at the time, have been semi-forgotten.

So I thought, before we dive into this year’s crop, let’s remember what came before. We didn’t do a list the first couple years, but here’s every album we’ve named #1 so far, along with an excerpt of our reviews:

2009: The Lemonheads – ‘Varshons’
“Twelve songs of booze-pop genius cover both classic tunes by songwriters like Leonard Cohen (Liv Tyler guests!) and Townes Van Zandt and obscurities from July and the unfortunately-named FuckEmos.”
See that year’s full list here.

2010: Peter Gabriel – ‘Scratch My Back’
“Against all odds, Gabriel builds an orchestra-filled, indie-fied, emotion-fueled masterpiece.”
See that year’s full list here.

2011: Baaba Kulka – ‘Baaba Kulka’
“It’s a boisterous Iron Maiden celebration by a collective that may not have a metal bone in its body, but invite big grins while you sing (and dance) along with the wildest crossover album this side of Warsaw.”
See that year’s full list here.

2012: Neil Young & Crazy Horse – ‘Americana’
“When you press play the first thing that strikes you is the fuzz of the power chords, the strained bellows, the cardboard-box bashing of the drums. Neil and the Horse’s ragged glory rages so hard the source material becomes secondary.”
See that year’s full list here.

2013: Xiu Xiu – ‘Nina’
“Xiu Xiu’s Nina Simone tribute album isn’t an easy listen. It’s not necessarily an enjoyable one either. What it is though is riveting.”
See that year’s full list here.

2014: Andrew Bird – ‘Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…’
“In Bird’s delivery, the Handsome Family’s songs of old, weird Americana kitsch will hopefully reach listeners who might find the originals too weird.”
See that year’s full list here.

2015: Bob Dylan – ‘Shadows in the Night’
“Him releasing an album of songs associated with Frank Sinatra was no surprise at all; he’s been operating in the Ol’ Blues Eyes vein for decades now, just with a (very) different instrument.”
See that year’s full list here.

2016: Various Artists – ‘God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson’
“When it comes to preserving the depth and breadth of the contexts and traditions of American music that informed Blind Willie Johnson’s ecclesiastic but world-weary growl, it helps that the nine artists here…are able to handle the spiritual aspects of Johnson’s work.”
See that year’s full list here.

Okay, now that you’re all caught up – let’s see what this year holds!

– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

Start the countdown on the next page…

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Dec 072017
 

Cripes, quite how do I put this with sufficient diplomacy?

Some of you may have been drawn to this record by their knowledge of Jim James’ main band My Morning Jacket. Some of you, like me, may be interested based on the strength and range of the titles covered by Jim James. For it is an eclectic selection. Broadway to the Beach Boys, Emerson, Lake and Palmer to Sonny and Cher. And, yes, of course some Dylan. Catnip for covers lovers from the mainman in a bonafide cool hipster band.

Realizing it is almost 15 years since I last bought an album by My Morning Jacket, 2003’s It Still Moves, I wonder whether there has been, um, a change of direction in the intervening years. I somehow assumed they had stuck fast in their Skynyrd/Shakey hybrid. Or maybe Jim James – or “Yim Yames”, as I recall with a shudder he briefly rechristened himself a decade ago – keeps this other side for solo stuff like this. I am uncertain whether these interpretations are weird or just wonky, largely played so straight and so simply as to reveal more his weaknesses than his strengths as a singer. Which is a pity, as he has a fine, if limited voice. Continue reading »

Dec 072017
 
craig finn mountain goats

On the new music podcast I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats, frontman John Darnielle and host Joseph Fink (Welcome to Nightvale) are discussing every song on the Mountain Goats cult classic 2002 album All Hail West Texas. Each episode concludes with a new cover of the song in question, one of which – Loamlands’ “Fall of the High School Running Back” – we already named one of the best covers of the year this week.

The new episode features The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn tackling the album’s fifth track, “Fault Lines.” Like every song on the album, the original is a solo acoustic recording, offering a blank canvas for Finn to work on. He says his lush, orchestrated cover was inspired equally by both The Walkmen and Van Morrison. It’s a far cry from the original, although – crucially with any Mountain Goats song – the lyrics stay at the forefront. Continue reading »

Dec 062017
 
shovels rope covers

Husband and wife team Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, better known as Shovels & Rope, know their way around a good cover song. We’ve shared a handful of their covers here at the site over the years, including a couple of cuts from their 2015 collection of covers, Busted Jukebox, Volume 1. From that title, it’s almost as if they knew they’d be releasing more covers at some point. Well, surprise! This week sees the release of Busted Jukebox, Volume 2, following the same format of Volume 1: a wide-range of source material reimagined with the help of some musician friends. Continue reading »