Apr 202010
 

Omigod, you just have to hear this new Bob Dylan cover.  You know that folksy ballad, “All Along the Watchtower”?  Well some afro-headscarf weirdnik named Jimi rocked it so hard that…  What’s that?  You’ve already heard it?  You say it tops every single list of the best Dylan covers that has ever been made with absolutely no exceptions so don’t bother looking to try to prove me wrong?  Ah.  Well, Mr. Music Snob, try these ten lesser-known covers on for size, spanning from Bob’s folk origins until his post-Blonde on Blonde motorcycle crash.

Grand Panda ft. Dawn – Ballad of a Thin Man
This grinding synth slow-burn comes via comp curator extraordinaire Béatrice Ardisson, whose Dylan Mania contains sixteen of the most fantastically weird covers you’re likely to hear.  [Buy]

Mobius Band – I’ll Keep It With Mine
Though Dylan wrote this song in 1964, his own version didn’t see the light of day until 1985’s Biograph compilation.  It indicates he was experimenting with what he called “that thin, wild mercury music” several years before Blonde on Blonde[Buy]

The Roots – Masters of War
Outside of free jazz and the Dead, there aren’t many songs where a blogger must decide whether to post the ten-minute version or the twenty.  I went with the conservative length, but I’ll probably post the longer one on Twitter this week.  Now with extra ?uestlove drum solo!  [Buy]

Dion – Spanish Harlem Incident
When Dion opened Dylan’s New York concerts last fall, he missed an opportunity to deliver this swinging gem to an appreciative audience.  It’s not like he had to worry about stepping on Bob’s toes; the man has only performed it one time himself.  [Buy]

40 Thieves – Subterranean Homesick Blues
“Subterranean” has been described as the first rap song.  40 Thieves make the argument by ripping through the lyrics over a funky Public Enemy-esq beat.  [Buy]

Martin Simpson – Boots of Spanish Leather
Dylan’s finger-picking from the early days should get more credit than it does (see “Don’t Think Twice”), but even at his best he had nothing on this guy.  Listen those funky bass note slaps.  [Buy]

I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business – Positively 4th Street
This song seems even angrier in a polite acoustic guise.  By the time singer Arthur “Ace” Enders makes it to that cutting last line, you wonder what he’s capable of.  [Buy]

Mike Ness – Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright
Putting Dylan’s acoustic songs to a heavy rock beat is not a novel concept, but the Social Distortion frontman handles it particularly well.  What song doesn’t improve with a little growl?  [Buy]

The Magokoro Brothers – My Back Pages
Even for critics underwhelmed by the incoherent storyline of Dylan’s 2003 film Masked and Anonymous (people, plot is so twentieth century), few could object to the cover-heavy soundtrack.  The Magokoro Bros’ translation of “My Back Pages” into Japanese works because it doesn’t.  Each line has three times as many syllables as will fit, so the singer always seems to be playing catch-up.  [Buy]

Douglas September – Girl from the North Country
The word haunting gets overused, but it has never been more appropriate.  September’s hoarse whisper is devastating and that gusting wind raises the hairs on your neck.  [Buy]

Read Part 2: After the Crash.

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  12 Responses to “The Best Dylan Covers You’ve (Probably) Never Heard: Before the Crash”

Comments (9) Pingbacks (3)
  1. For my money, it's pretty hard to outdo Joe Cocker's "Girl from teh North County" off of "Mad Dogs & Englishmen."

  2. Nice stuff…. I also really like the covers from I'm Not There…. some good lesser know covers there.

  3. Great list… I agree, September's 'Girl From the North Country' totally raises the hairs on your neck. I found his version very captivating. I think it was produced by David Torn / SPLaTTeRCeLL. I'm going to check out some of the other covers from artists I haven't heard of. You seem to be uncovering some hidden treasures.

  4. glad people are enjoyin/ thank you for posting!
    …the vs of this song was recorded with SPLaTTeRCeLL (David Torn) for 'Oil Tan Bow'…it is a vs Robby Aceto (elec. guit.) and me (d9) recorded 'live' / 'off the floor' on an evening in David's studio (no overdubs/edits on this track). it was a song Robby and i were playing live quite a lot – and there was something particular about this 'take' that seemed to retain the elements we wanted heard for the album…d9

  5. Nice. I think The Secret Machine's synth-heavy cover of Girl from North Country deserves a mention.

  6. I suggest "Memphis Blues Again" by Mud Boy & The Neutrons; Äbsolutely Sweet Marie" by Jason & The Scorchers and "Chimes of Freedom" by Youssou N'Dour

    Fred

  7. Can't get to the MP3s – "covermesongs.com" is suspended. However, Fairport Convention did an absolutely beautiful version of "I'll Keep It With Mine" (as well as other covers of Bob Dylan songs).

  8. All songs are back up. Some cover of a Bryan Adams song I posted back in November (one submitted by the artist!) got flagged. Thanks for your patience.

  9. As a Dylan obsessive, my favorite cover is Jerry Jeff Walker’s “One Too Many Mornings” one of the few I like better than the original. Also, John Doe’s “Pressing On” and Jason and the Scorcher’s “absolutely Sweet Marie”

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