Ray Padgett

Ray Padgett founded the blog Cover Me in 2007 and has run it ever since, growing it into the largest blog devoted to cover songs on the web. His music writing has appeared in SPIN, MTV, Vice, Consequence of Sound, and more and he’s been interviewed as an expert on cover songs by the Wall Street Journal and the BBC. He lives in New York City and also works as a senior music publicist for Shore Fire Media. His book Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time comes out October 2017. Pre-order it at Amazon. Email him at rfpadgett @ gmail.

Jan 112018
 
tallest man on earth covers

“When We Were Young,” Adele’s second single off 25, peaked at #14 on the pop charts. Amazing by most artists’ standards, but middling by hers (particularly following “Hello” topping every chart in existence). But as with so many of her songs before it, it’s lived on well past its chart run through endless covers. The latest, and maybe greatest, comes from Sweden’s The Tallest Man on Earth.

He performed it on the Swedish game show På Spåre, backed by local pop group Augustifamiljen. It’s a bigger and more lavish production than most of Kristian Matsson’s covers, which tend more towards fingerpicked folk tunes. But he sells it perfectly, finding a middle ground between his singer-songwriter sensibilities and Adele’s bigger soul belting. Continue reading »

Jan 032018
 
first aid kit leonard cohen

Lorde‘s “Green Light” ranked on many publications’ “Best Songs of 2017” lists (#3 on Pitchfork). Fittingly, it’s seen its fair share of covers, from Arcade Fire to All Time Low. But when Swedish duo First Aid Kit stopped by the BBC over the holiday break, they picked a (slightly) deeper cut from Lorde’s Melodrama: “Perfect Places.” If you’ve ever heard the harmonies of sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg – the Everly Brothers meets Haim – you won’t be surprised by how gorgeously they transform the pop song into a lilting country waltz.

But let that be the amuse bouche to the real treat here. Last March, the pair led a massive Leonard Cohen tribute concert in Stockholm. We posted fan-shot videos at the time, but they didn’t do it justice. This fall, the full thing aired on Swedish television. It is, frankly, stunning. The sisters, a few friends, and a full orchestra and choir tackle twenty Cohen songs and poems, from classics like “Suzanne” to new songs like “You Want It Darker.” The arrangements are mesmerizing, making you hear afresh even a song you’ve heard a million times. I thought I never needed to hear another “Hallelujah” cover again. I was wrong (that one’s fronted by guest Annika Norlin). Even the poems – which in most tribute shows would be an afterthought – come across powerfully with the sisters’ voices raised to the ceiling. Their recitation of Leonard’s farewell letter to Marianne on her deathbed into “So Long, Marianne” will give you chills. Continue reading »

Dec 072017
 
craig finn mountain goats

On the new music podcast I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats, frontman John Darnielle and host Joseph Fink (Welcome to Nightvale) are discussing every song on the Mountain Goats cult classic 2002 album All Hail West Texas. Each episode concludes with a new cover of the song in question, one of which – Loamlands’ “Fall of the High School Running Back” – we already named one of the best covers of the year this week.

The new episode features The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn tackling the album’s fifth track, “Fault Lines.” Like every song on the album, the original is a solo acoustic recording, offering a blank canvas for Finn to work on. He says his lush, orchestrated cover was inspired equally by both The Walkmen and Van Morrison. It’s a far cry from the original, although – crucially with any Mountain Goats song – the lyrics stay at the forefront. Continue reading »

Nov 272017
 
eddie vedder zevon

“Dave, let me thank you, because if it weren’t for you, I probably wouldn’t have known who Warren Zevon was,” Eddie Vedder told David Letterman at the Mark Twain prize ceremony. He’s not the only one. Letterman championed Zevon for years when few else would, inviting him back again and again to perform, sit in, and even lead the band when Paul Shaffer was away. In Zevon’s last Letterman appearance before his death – one of the greatest moments in late-night history (certainly one of the most tear-jerking) – he called Dave “the best friend my music’s ever had.”

So when Vedder showed up to honor Letterman at the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor ceremony, he wasn’t going to run through a standup routine. Instead, he paid tribute to Dave by paying tribute to Warren, covering “Keep Me In Your Heart” with Shaffer and his band. Zevon wrote any number of songs that would have been poignant under the circumstances – “Mutineer,” “Don’t Let Us Get Sick,” “Accidentally Like a Martyr,” etc – and “Keep Me In Your Heart” proves a beautiful choice. Watch it below. Continue reading »

Nov 152017
 
mountain goats sisters of mercy

The Mountain Goats’ latest album Goths contains a song titled “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back to Leeds,” which requres a bit of explaining. Andrew Eldritch is the lead singer of pioneering gothic rock band Sisters of Mercy. As Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle explained to Noisey about the song, “The Sisters of Mercy haven’t made any music in over 20 years, and I just thought at some point you have to go home and I liked the idea of Andrew Eldritch being a person. Like, ‘I take off my hat and my sunglasses and go hang out with my friends who knew me when I was just a person who enjoyed a nice, sunny day in Leeds.'”

Growing up as a teen goth (though he knew the genre as “death rock”), Darnielle’s favorite band was the Sisters of Mercy. “My girlfriend and I loved the fact that everyone else was making albums and touring, but in the beginning, the Sisters of Mercy only made 12-inch EPs that were fucking unbelievable,” he told Noisey. “We loved the first album [1985’s First and Last and Always], I saw them twice on that tour, but it lacked the magic, the total mystery of these 12-inches that had almost no details of any kind, just the names of the musicians and the songs. Each EP felt like something to parse, like a text to say how they’d grown.” Continue reading »

Nov 142017
 
shinyribs cover

Kevin Russell knows his way around a cross-genre cover. Probably his best-known song is just that: The Gourds’ bluegrass version of “Gin and Juice.” In the early days of Napster, the tune went viral under another band’s name and…well, you’ll have read that chapter in my book to find out the rest. The Snoop Dogg cover gave the band a lot, but played a small role in their demise too.

Russell’s latest cover flips the “Gin and Juice” script in two ways: it hasn’t gone viral – or even been widely released – but he actually earned some money from it. It’s a solo ukulele take on Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” recorded under his new performing name Shinyribs. He taped it last year to celebrate New Belgium Brewery’s 25th anniversary, but director Mike Woolf says it was rarely seen because the brewery never put the films online. Continue reading »