Minnesotan folksinger Mason Jennings has been known to cover songs that he particularly likes, whether they’re in his genre, like Bob Dylan and John Lennon classics, or they’re unexpected acoustic versions of Rage Against The Machine. In his recent video for The Voice Project, he adds one of rock’s best-known songs to his collection: Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me.” Inspired by his Withers-fan parents and the unbelievable 2009 documentary Still Bill (which is available for streaming on Netflix if you haven’t seen it yet), Jennings pulled up a bar stool before his show with the Pines in Vancouver last week to record this gorgeous take on the ubiquitous song.
Like the best of Mason’s own songs, his cover of “Lean On Me” features just his Martin dreadnought and his distinctive clear, deep voice. While he may not capture the anthemic soul of the original, he works the iconic piano riff into his subtly impressive guitar part, simplifying the song considerably and giving it a mellow, harrowing feel. As this song has been enthusiastically covered by hundreds of choirs and choruses all around the world (and Stephen Colbert), it’s refreshing to hear a version that takes it in the opposite direction. Watch the video below.
Mason Jennings – Lean On Me (Bill Withers cover)
Check out more from Mason Jennings on his website.