Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).
Today’s question, from Cover Me editor-in-chief Ray Padgett: What’s your favorite cover song of 2015 so far?
Cassandra Wilson – These Foolish Things (Cole Porter cover)
In a year so far a little limp in good covers, it is back to the husky lower register of Cassandra Wilson I return, this classic Cole Porter presented way less jauntily than the Bryan Ferry that has earwormed ahead of it in so many a consciousness. And the better for it too. (If the YouTube clip doesn’t work, try this Soundcloud link.)
Tessa Rose Jackson – The Pretender (Foo Fighters cover)
I dislike the Foo Fighters more than Nickelback. They’re both unpleasant, but Nickelback was unjustly made the whipping boy for a genre with many equally bad bands, while the Foos seem to get a by from the “cool kids” because Dave Grohl was in Nirvana (and seems like a nice guy). But maybe this cover shows what they could have been. With layered vocals, thudding drums, and epic string flourishes, it builds drama in a way that at times sounds like Grohl scoring Phantom of the Opera.
Rhiannon Giddens – Black is the Color (Nina Simone cover)
Rhiannon Giddens adds looped percussion, jazzy, funky accompaniment, even her own lyrics to the Nina Simone classic, reimagining it as a song of joy and celebration. “If you’re going to do something that’s been covered a million times,” she said in an interview, “you want to do it differently, and you want to kind of put your spin on it.” Her spin is radical and very, very effective.
Gavin James – The Book of Love (Magnetic Fields cover)
Our last Q&A was about songs that had been covered too often; for me, the Magnetic Fields’ “Book of Love” hasn’t come anywhere near that point. Gavin James’ version focuses on the tenderness, and then in the bridge, it soars with all the delicacy of a Chinese lantern.
Jason Isbell – The Thrill is Gone (B.B. King cover)
My favorite cover song this year so far isn’t just a cover: it’s a cover of a cover. “The Thrill is Gone” was a signature tune for BB King after he recorded it in 1969, but it was also a hit for Roy Hawkins 20 years earlier. It comes as no surprise that King played it live during his last performance, a few months before he succumbed to illness at the age of 89. Jason Isbell, riding high on a great response to his last album Southeastern, pushes aside the ballads and reminds the audience of what he’s capable of as a lead guitarist. The King may be gone, but some of the thrill gets recreated here.
Jack White – Blue Light, Red Light (Someone’s There) (Harry Connick Jr. cover)
The seasoned White Stripes frontman takes on the Harry Connick Jr. classic, retaining the big band flare of the original whilst unleashing his signature gritty blues grooves, barrelhouse pianos, and panting guitar riffs. While I have no doubt other fantastic covers are just on the horizon, it’s hard to imagine they’ve got anything on this.
Chris Brenner and Johannes Weber – Crazy in Love/Take me to Church (Beyonce/Hozier cover)
This duet adds a new depth to both songs. Also of note are the buildup combining with the eventual drop, which really ads a tragic element that makes the song(s) sound fresh. If not for anything else, the layering that happens at about two minutes in makes it wholly worth a listen.
If you have a question you’d like us to answer, leave it in the comments, or e-mail it to covermefeature01(at)gmail(dot)com.