Mary J. Blige made headlines earlier this month when she sang Bruce Springsteen‘s “American Skin (41 Shots)” directly to Hillary Clinton during an interview. Now she has released a proper recording, accompanied by Kendrick Lamar, whose To Pimp a Butterfly addressed many of the same issues as this song. It ain’t no secret, to quote the track, why Blige is covering it right now. Though Springsteen wrote it 15 years ago, the topic of unwarranted police shootings is more prevalent in the age of Black Lives Matter than ever. At the time, he earned boos from policemen for the song, and it will be interesting to see if Blige and Lamar’s version inspires the same outrage.
Later this year, we’ll be posting our year-end lists. One category we don’t include is “Best New Cover Performer” – but if we did, The Land Below would be a shoe-in. We’ve already heard him beautifully cover Slipknot, Alanis Morisette, and Eagle-Eye Cherry (how’s that for a diverse source list?). Now he’s back with another unexpected pick, Moby’s “Porcelain.” Less unexpected: he does a fantastic job, once again.
This past weekend, Chris Thile of Cover Me-favorites Nickel Creek hosted his first Prairie Home Companion after Garrison Keillor stepped down. There’s been a lot of speculation over whether fans of Lake Wobegon and “Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie” will stick around with Keillor gone, so Thile brought out the big guns for his debut, booking Jack White for his first-ever appearance. White sang solo material, Raconteurs, and White Stripes songs in new acoustic arrangements (one with his Third Man labelmate Margo Price) and even played a new cover, of Bobby Bare‘s 1969 country hit “(Margie’s At) The Lincoln Park Inn.”
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Otis Redding built one of his greatest songs out of almost nothing. Guitarist and co-writer Steve Cropper explains: “‘I Can’t Turn You Loose’ was just a riff I’d used on a few songs with the MG’s. Otis worked it up with the horns in about 10 minutes as the last thing we did one night in the studio. Just a riff and one verse that he sings over and over. That’s all it is.”
Last year, Ryan Adams shocked the music world with his earnest track-for-track cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. Initially, news of the album was assumed to be either a joke or purely inspired by irony, but the finished product was strong enough to land a spot on our favorite cover albums of 2015. Swift responded favorably to Adams’ tribute, but as far as we know she hasn’t gone into the studio to cover any of his songs.