There are times when it’s difficult to remember who a cover is covering. It’s a strange testament to all the artists involved – both that the songwriter can elicit such strong feelings and evoke such strong atmospheres as to seem like someone else and that the covering artist can bring out something unique from the heart of the song.
This is precisely what Shovels & Rope have done with their cover of Bruce Springsteen‘s classic “Johnny 99.” Listening to the cover, it seems more like a Johnny Cash original than a Springsteen tune (though Cash covered it in 1983 on an album of the same name). The self-described “sloppy-tonk” style of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst fits the song perfectly, with saloon piano, vocals full of both recklessness and gloom, and simple but inescapable percussion, and evokes all the chaos and melancholy of Springsteen’s Nebraska album in a sound all their own.
The track is available as a single from Third Man Records, with a B-side cover of Tom Waits’ “Bad As Me.”
Check out more from Shovels & Rope at their website.