Focusing on the devil’s music today. No, not rock’n’roll, but actual songs about the devil. He seems to be a pretty strong muse, as all the songs I could think of were pretty damn (pun #1) good.
Jimmy Sturr – The Devil Went Down to Georgia (The Charlie Daniels Band)
Loads of covers of this one, most changing it significantly, perhaps due to the lack of abaility to use dozens of violin tracks as Daniels did. The heavy metal covers are generally hellish (pun #2), but this one from polka master Sturr adds a fresh twist, in the form of accordions. Primus also did a well-known version, that features a claymation video worth checking out.
s.e.k.s. – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult)
This hard-rocker gets turned into a mellow lounge number as she moves the prevalent riff far into the background, highlighting the melody of the vocals. Plenty of maracas and steel guitar…but no cowbell.
George Harrison – Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Cab Calloway)
This one came out on George’s posthumously released album Brainwashed, taking the jazz standard and infusing it with mandolin strums.
Johnny Cash – Devil’s Right Hand (Steve Earle)
Recorded for Cash’s second album with Rick Rubin, Unchained, it didn’t come out until the outtakes box set Unearthed. Backed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, it’s a tale about guns and why you should always listen to ma.
Steve Earle – Way Down in the Hole (Tom Waits)
Steve’s into the devil I guess. One of the most covered Waits tunes, it’s currently the theme song for the TV show The Wire, with a new version each season. So far I think we’ve had The Blind Boys of Alabama, Tom’s original, the Neville Brothers, and DoMaJe. Just found out this version here is slated for Season 5.
Bob Dylan – Friend of the Devil (Grateful Dead)
A staple of Bob’s live sets in the late 90’s, this is a soundboard recording from a gig in Birmingham, NY 2/19/99. Listen to the backing vocals on the chorus by guitarist Larry Campbell. After retiring it in ’99, save two performance in ’02, Bob brought it back this fall in a gig at Colorado’s Red Rocks.
The Holmes Brothers – Man of Peace (Bob Dylan)
Is this a pro-war Dylan song? Sure sounds like it, and the original is pretty painful, but the Holmes Bros revamp it into a screaming gospel number that helps ignore the lyrics.
Sandie Shaw – Sympathy for the Devil (Rolling Stones)
The only song I know sung from the perspective of Beelzebub himself, Slovenian industrial group Laibach devoted a whole album to covering it seven times. I wouldn’t subject anyone to that, but this one is far more listenable, less in-your-face than the original, but energetic nevertheless.