Many musicians cover Bob Dylan songs, but few pick “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” It’s easy to see why. The song has one chord, very little melody, and a whole lot of dense lyrics (even by Dylan standards). As a result, most of the few covers out there tend to be a slog.
So all credit due to The Lumineers and Andrew Bird, who manage to make it their own on a new cover for Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary. The “Ho Hey” bass drum propels the track forward and Bird’s violin breaks give the tune a slight Middle Eastern feel.
“There’s a visceral quality to ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ that, even today, you start playing this and it’s this rapid-fire, machine gun delivery that is disorienting,” Lumineers frontman Wesley Schultz says in a video discussing the cover. “I can’t imagine what it was like to hear that song at the time.”
Stream The Lumineers and Andrew Bird’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” below.
This Spotify playlist will apparently add more new covers tied to the Ken Burns series through October.