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.

Mar 142018
australian cover songs

Cover songs have become a battleground in the streaming era. On our best-of-the-month roundups (January’s, February’s), inevitably a sizeable number come from Spotify sessions. And Amazon is fighting back, regularly commissioning original covers for themed playlists exclusive to their own streaming service. The latest is called Made In Australia and includes 22 younger Australian bands covering their countrymen. We’ve rounded up some of the best below (though, sadly, many of the rest you can only hear in full as an Amazon Music subscriber). Continue reading »

Mar 082018

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

dizzy tommy roe

Today we are inaugurating a new occasional series called “Covering the Hits.” It was inspired by Stereogum’s great new series “Number Ones” reviewing every single #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in order. Than in turn was inspired by the “Popular” series in the UK. The occasion for all this number-one nostalgia? 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the Hot 100’s advent.

Needless to say, though, our focus is a little different: covers. We’re not writing about the hits themselves; we’re writing about subsequent covers of those hits. Some have been covered hundreds of times; others only a few (surprising but true for many songs that topped the charts). Whatever the case, we’re going to investigate and tell each hit’s cover story, long or short.

Unlike those other series, we’re not going in order. There are over 1,000 #1 hits since 1958. If we went chronologically, we’d never even make it to the Beatles. Instead, we’re using a random-number generator (the digital equivalent of drawing from a hat). And, for the first one, our generator-hat delivered: Tommy Roe’s 1969 hit “Dizzy.” Continue reading »

Mar 062018

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

frank turner cover songs

We launched our new series “Pick Five” last week with Emel Mathlouthi, and today the great singer-songwriter Frank Turner tells us about his five favorite cover songs.

Dubbed “the people’s prince of punk poetry,” Turner has broadened his sound on upcoming seventh studio album Be More Kind (out May 4th), the follow-up to his acclaimed 2015 release Positive Songs For Negative People. He told NME that he incorporated sounds fans might not associate with the guitar-basher, like keyboard synths and sampled loops. For a taste of this lusher production, listen to the latest single:

Such eclectic influences can also be seen in the five covers he picked for us. He mixes in the guitar-strummers and punk-blasters fans might expect (Johnny Cash and NOFX, respectively) with artists like Joe Cocker and Tori Amos. He also illustrates the depth of his musical knowledge; as he notes, few people even realize the Blondie song he picks is a cover. So let’s turn it over to him. Continue reading »

Mar 022018

Cover Classics takes a look at great covers albums of the past, their genesis and their legacies.

tower of song songs of leonard cohen

Last week, I wrote about the hugely influential 1991 tribute album I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen. How influential? Without it, the world – and Jeff Buckley – might never have heard “Hallelujah.”

The 1995 tribute album Tower of Song is not remotely influential. None of its covers have become classics, nor did they introduce any Cohen deep cuts to the popular cannon. Where I’m Your Fan picked the hippest artists of the time, the Tower of Song curators seem to have gone out of their way to pick the least hip. Billy Joel. Elton John. Don freakin’ Henley. Continue reading »

Mar 022018
weird al polka medleys

When I interviewed “Weird Al” Yankovic about the polka covers medleys he does on every album, there were two he described as noble failures: “Hot Rocks Polka” (1989) and “Bohemian Polka” (1993). In both, he deviated from his traditional mashing up of a dozen different genres for a single-artist focus: the Rolling Stones and Queen (in their case one song, “Bohemian Rhapsody”).

“As much as I like going with the tried-and-true, after a while you want to see if something else is going to work,” he said in my book. “Both those polkas were sort of experiments. And both worked okay. But in general, I found that people tended to like the full-on random medleys better. Like the Stones thing was a nice tribute, but there wasn’t as much of a surprise going from song to song. It was like ‘Oh, and here’s another Stones song.’ And I think a big part of the humor in the medleys is the random, jarring juxtaposition of one song to the next, done polka-style. I thought ‘Well, I tried that, now let’s go back to what works.’” Continue reading »

Mar 022018

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

emel mathlouthi covers

We first discovered Emel Mathlouthi at last year’s Northside Festival. But let me be clear: when I say “discovered,” I hardly mean she was unknown. In fact, we were very late on the bandwagon; the Tunisian singer-songwriter is an international star. A few years back she became known as the “Voice of the Arab Spring” after one of her song’s became an anthem for the revolution. She even performed it at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2015:

As you can see in that video, her original songs are stunning. Her most recent album, Ensen, was my personal favorite album of 2017, and today she releases a follow-up set of inventive remixes of those songs titled Ensenity. You can get a taste over at The Fader.

With a voice like that, you won’t be surprised to learn she can deliver some pretty stunning covers too. She can belt “Hallelujah” with the best of ‘em, and has equally beautiful takes on David Bowie and Björk under her belt. She was even kind enough to put together a pretty mind-blowing version of “All Along the Watchtower” for my book party. It’s the rare cover that owes next to nothing to Jimi Hendrix: Continue reading »