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 the New Yorker, SPIN, MTV, Vice, Mojo, and more and he’s been interviewed as an expert on cover songs by NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and SiriusXM. 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 is out now. Buy it at Amazon. Email him at rfpadgett @ gmail.

Sep 182018
 
tom waits bella ciao

As we saw when we did a deep dive into his live covers, Tom Waits occasionally dips into some material that seems mildly unexpected – until you hear him sing it, when it makes perfect sense. That’s certainly true on his first recording in two years, a guest vocal on former guitarist Marc Ribot’s new album. The song is a cover of “Bella Ciao,” an Italian protest song that became a 1940s anthem in the fight against Mussolini and the fascists. Timely much?

“I played Tom a bunch of the tunes and he immediately bonded with that one,” Ribot said in the press release. “Of course, he brings a certain gravitas to everything he does – my Italian friends say he sounds exactly like an old ‘partigiano’ (resistance fighter)!” Continue reading »

Sep 132018
 
peter gabriel covers

Not enough artists cover Peter Gabriel songs.

Well, let me amend that. Not enough artists cover Peter Gabriel songs other than “In Your Eyes” (which could stand a break, frankly). But in the past week, the tides have begun to turn with two new, and very different, takes on Gabriel solo hits.

First up, Vampire Weekend tackled “Solsbury Hill.” As a pop singer incorporating world-music influences, Gabriel might be second only to Paul Simon on the list of obvious Vampire Weekend influences. Perhaps as a result, they delivered a terrific live version at a British festival last week, augmented by an expanded live band. Watch it below, after their own world-pop song “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” Continue reading »

Sep 112018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

whitehorse cover songs

Two years ago, Whitehorse, the Canadian husband-and-wife duo made up of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, made our Best of 2016 list with their covers EP The Northern South, Vol. 1. Well, a volume one demands a volume two (someone remind Bob Dylan), and that finally arrives in January. On The Northern South, Vol. 2, the pair cover blues legends like Jimmy Reed and Slim Harpo, but not in the bar-band-choogler fashion you most often hear these songs performed. Get a taste with the first single, a version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talkin'” that sounds like Chess Records via Muscle Shoals:

You have to wait until January to hear more – unless you’re in Nashville this week, where the duo have two shows at AmericanaFest on Thursday: 4pm @ The Local (WMOT) and 10pm @ The Basement (I’ve seen them live, and can confirm they are not to be missed). Doucet and McClelland took some time out from rehearsing their own covers to tell us about their favorite cover songs. Though their music often gets pegged as bluesy Americana, their tastes span the genre gamut. They also, consciously or not, seem drawn to other bands with “horse” in the name. Continue reading »

Aug 282018
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

devo covers

Devo released their brilliantly-titled debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! forty years ago today. Though later albums would yield bigger hits (we’re still a few years from “Whip It”), their debut remains their most iconic record. Blending their poppiest hooks with their artiest quirks, it works wonderfully as a statement of purpose.

As Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale told me when I wrote about their “Satisfaction” cover for my book (you can still read an excerpt of that chapter at The New Yorker), even completing the album became a monumental pain. Having Brian Eno produce your debut record would seem a coup, but sessions quickly became fractious. Devo wanted to record the album with zero studio experimentation. They’d honed the songs over several years of concerts and rehearsals, and saw no reason to change them. Eno did not go for that approach, sneaking into the studio with his pal David Bowie after the band left and adding new instruments at least once. The next morning, Devo caught on and wiped them. Devo’s instincts have rarely led them astray, but boy I’d be curious to hear what Bowie was trying to add to the tracks. Continue reading »

Aug 222018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

david olney cover songs

In 1991, Townes Van Zandt wrote the following: “Anytime anyone asks me who my favorite music writers are, I say Mozart, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Dylan, and Dave Olney. Dave Olney is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard — and that’s true. I mean that from my heart.”

Twenty-seven years later, Townes is gone, but Olney keeps on keepin’ on. He may not have become a household name in that time, but his reputation among his peers has only grown. Emmylou Harris has sung three of his songs. Linda Ronstadt tackled a pair herself. When Steve Earle covered Olney’s “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning,” he noted it took him four or five years of playing the song before he realized it was “so perfectly constructed that it doesn’t have a rhyme in it.” He added that Olney was “one of the best songwriters in the world.” Continue reading »

Aug 212018
 
posthumous aretha franklin covers

Last night’s VMAs surprised many by omitting any sort of musical tribute to Aretha Franklin. You’d think if anyone could pull that together with a few days notice, MTV could – but honestly, I get it. There have been fewer memorial covers of Aretha Franklin than we saw for Tom Petty, Prince, Leonard Cohen, and many others. Even Chris Cornell earned more in-concert tributes, and Aretha’s career of hits goes back decades further than his.

Why is that? Certainly Aretha is no less beloved than these others; eloquent and moving tributes in other forms continue to pour in hourly. My guess: Aretha is first and foremost known as a singer, maybe the greatest ever (Rolling Stone said she was). Though certainly no songwriting slouch (pretty much every part you’d sing along to in “Respect,” she added herself), Aretha may simply be too daunting vocally for many musicians to attempt.

Luckily, not all musicians. Here are the best posthumous Aretha Franklin covers we’ve seen so far. Hopefully more are coming! Continue reading »