In 1975, months before the Rolling Thunder Revue began, Bob Dylan joined Neil Young for a huge benefit concert in San Francisco. As if that wasn’t enough, three-fifths of The Band joined them too: Levon Helm, Rick Danko, and Garth Hudson. The spontaneous supergroup performed ramshackle versions of a few Neil Young songs (“Lookin’ for a Love,” “Helpless,” “Are You Ready for the Country?”), a few Dylan songs (Bob’s first-ever live “I Want You” and a weirdly retitled “Knockin’ on Dragon’s Door”), and a few covers. The final song they performed was one of those covers, a raggedy but charming version of country standby “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” popularized in the 1930s by The Carter Family. Here’s a stream:
The last time we wrote about Thou, our headline read: “Thou Leads Doom Metal Cover of Nirvana’s ‘Something in the Way’.”
Two years later, the Louisiana metal quintet returns with another Nirvana cover, even more doom-y than the last. This time, they tackle “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?,” the song Nirvana learned from Leadbelly’s version (who called it “In the Pines”) and famously performed on MTV Unplugged. Even played on acoustic guitars, Nirvana’s version was plenty heavy, but Thou takes the word “heavy” to a whole other level. Over a thunderous nine minutes, they growl and roar over a wall of distorted guitars. This sort of death-metal vocal style (“Cookie monster” to its detractors) can turn off non-metalheads, but it proves a perfect fit for this song and this sound.
When singer-songwriters cover rappers, the results can be cringe-inducing. For every Gourds, there’s a dozen Karmins – groups wink-wink-nudge-nudging at a different culture without much thought or respect given. (Plus, far too many of them cheerfully quote the n-word.)
Rayland Baxter’s new Mac Miller tribute EP feels like a different beast entirely. For one, the late rapper sang himself, which helps others’ versions of his songs avoid the rap-cover clichés of ironically slow-crooning tough rhymes over a ukulele or something. For another, Baxter’s appreciation for Miller’s work runs deep. His tribute comes from a place of real respect, and sadness at a promising young talent gone far too soon.
Ashley O [Miley Cyrus] – Right Where I Belong (Nine Inch Nails cover)
The second-most-bonkers cover of the month (just wait ’til we get to “Spicy”) comes from – who else – Miley Cyrus. On a new episode of Black Mirror, she covers/parodies angsty Nine Inch Nails songs as the most insipid of pop jams. Trent Reznor, for one, says he is very much on board (given the lyric changes, these covers required his legal approval). Miley’s songs in character as Ashley O are outrageous and borderline offensive, which is kind of the point. “On a Roll” (FKA “Head Like a Hole”) has gotten most of the attention, but “Right Where I Belong” is more listenable. Marginally.
For Record Store Day this year, Erykah Badu and The Roots keyboard player James Poyser quietly dropped a new 7″ cover of Squeeze’s oft-covered “Tempted.” For those who weren’t lucky enough to snag it that day, they’ve just posted it online.
Britney Spears recently checked herself into a mental health facility amidst rumors she was trying to end her unusual conservatorship, reigniting the #FreeBritney campaign (the whole thing’s too complicated to get into here, but the Times has a good explainer). Everyone from Miley Cyrus to Heidi Klum spoke out in support of Britney – and, in their own way, so have new LA dream-pop band The Marías. They just released a video for their cover of “…Baby One More Time,” originally released a couple months before the latest news but newly relevant.
They wrote on Twitter, “we recorded ‘baby one more time’ to try to get us out of a funk that we were in. it was just for fun to help lift our spirits, and we didn’t even plan on releasing it at all. thanks for the love on it.”