Let it never be said that Leonard Cohen songs fit a mold. Sure, he may carry the image of the rumbled old poet (who inspires sexual harassment suits), but his songs can go anywhere. Case in point: two wildly different covers that have recent graced our inbox.
Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe drops great covers every time we turn around. We posted our favorite five here, then followed up by premiering her version of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” Her latest examines songstress Patty Griffin‘s “Mary.” The song, from Griffin’s Flaming Red, offers a lovely acoustic tribute to one of America’s most underrated songwriters. Patty Griffin would surely approve of this bare-bones delivery that exposes what are some of Griffin’s finest lyrics. The song has also been covered by artists like Joan Baez, The Dixie Chicks, and…Kelly Clarkson.
Back in June Cover Me shone the spotlight on Canadian songstress Allison Crowe. We couldn’t fit in everything though, so that last post omitted the two renditions of Eurythmics‘ singer Annie Lennox’s “Why” from Crowe’s latest album, Spiral. Perhaps those recordings provided the impetus for a couple of Hollywood producers to call up Allison earlier this year to commission a recording of Eurythmics’ new wave classic “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”
“I learned this song, in its entirety, in the summer in about an hour to record as part of a movie soundtrack,” Allison tells Cover Me. “That didn’t pan out – but what did come of it was learning a song that I’ve always tinkered around with on the piano. I love Annie Lennox’s voice and songs. She’s a very cool lady – and extremely talented, so it’s a lot of fun to be able to cover more than one song of hers! There is something very healing about yelling ‘hold your head up – keep your head up’ at the top of your lungs.”
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
There are some voices that speak (or sing) for themselves. You know the ones. Voices where it doesn’t matter what they sing. Voices where it doesn’t really matter what instruments support them. Solomon Burke has such a voice. Jeff Buckley had it. Allison Crowe has it too.
Born in British Columbia, Crowe has amassed a loyal following in Canada and Europe. The songwriter’s songwriter pure tones sound like a bell, no show-off acrobatics necessary. The amazing thing isn’t just that she performs the best version of Leonard Cohen‘s oft-covered “Hallelujah” (sorry Jeff); the amazing thing is that she does so using the same solo piano style that everyone else does. There’s nothing particularly creative about it; her voice is just that good! So throw all those other “sensitive” covers. This one’s the keeper.
Her others are equally charming. The Beatles’ “In My Life” gets the uplifting piano too, while Cyndi Lauper‘s “Time after Time” mixes it up with – wait for it – a guitar! A full band joins in for Pearl Jam’s “Indifference” and the Rolling Stones’ “Shine a Light,” but as always Crowe’s voice is the star.
They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Joni Mitchell turns 68 today and, in terms of influence, her star burns as bright as ever. As folk stages its umpteenth popular revival, a whole new generation of folkies, freak-folkies, neofolkies, and indie folkies have taken lessons from decades of her simple, heart-wrenching songs. Dozen of hip, Pitchfork-approved artists namecheck Mitchell in interviews and display an obvious debt in their songs. On Joni’s birthday, we pay tribute to her through some of their tributes.
Ten years ago today, I had a whim.
I was studying abroad one semester and found myself with a lot of free time – school work was light, and a college student’s budget limited my international explorations – so I decided to start a blog. A second blog actually, since for several years I had run a personal blog of concert reviews and bootleg downloads called Dylan, Etc (it had more “Dylan” than it did “Etc”). I’d fallen in love with the cover song after hearing Bob Dylan (who else) play a revelatory cover of “Summertime” on his short-lived radio show. I’d already hosted a Cover Me college radio show, and decided to expand us to the World Wide Web.
These were the days of the so-called “MP3 blog,” which included a vibrant subgenre of cover-songs blogs. That’s right, I’d like to claim credit for inventing the category, but I didn’t – not even close. RIP to Copy Right?, Cover Freak, Fong Songs, and the rest of the pioneers – and shoutout to our fellow survivors from that era, Coverville, which was releasing podcasts before most people knew what that word meant, and the folk blog Cover Lay Down, which began around the same time as us.
A lot has changed over the past decade. We’ve published 3,564 posts as of this one. Oh, and did you notice the pronoun change there? Cover Me is no longer an “I” – it’s a “we”, with over 60 writers contributing over the years. We’ve grown from an ugly Blogspot to our spiffy own domain (which is overdue for a redesign itself, frankly). And in case the large banner ads all over the site weren’t clue enough, I just released a book also called Cover Me, which – back-patting alert – Variety called “one of the best multi-subject music books to come down the pike in years.”
We wanted to do something special to celebrate our tenth birthday. And we wanted to celebrate not just ourselves, but celebrate the cover song itself. So we put together this little album Cover Me Turns 10: A Covers Tribute to Covers as a gift to our readers. We contacted several dozen of our musician friends and asked them to cover a cover. That is, to honor the many great songs we might not even know without an iconic cover – Aretha Franklin reinventing Otis Redding’s “Respect,” Quiet Riot amplifying Slade’s call to feel the noize, Prince learning that nothing compares 2 Sinéad O’Connor.
We’re honored that so many of our favorite musicians contributed, and frankly speechless at how great a job they did. So speechless, in fact, that we asked them all to introduce their own work with a few sentences. A million thanks to all of them, and also to Cover Me writer and art whiz Sean Balkwill for designing the lovely – ahem – cover. The whole thing is free to download at Bandcamp until downloads run out, and free to stream forever.
Enough chatter from me. For ten years this blog has been all about celebrating the music and we’re not going to stop now. Thanks for taking this journey with us.
– Ray Padgett
Cover Me Founder