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.

Feb 282018
best cover songs february

Today we continue the tradition we started way back one month ago. Since we’re still new at this, I’ll reiterate that our picks are unranked and semi-impulsive. Even the un-blurbed “Honorable Mentions” at the bottom aren’t necessarily worse than the rest; in many cases, we’ve just already written about them at length and have little else to say.

Okay, disclaimers behind us, let’s dive in. Continue reading »

Feb 272018
the land below song 2

We have yet to hear a Land Below cover that didn’t surprise us. Though he’s only been at it a couple years, Sweden’s Erik Lindestad has developed something of a cover speciality: Taking a song with one instantly recognizable element, and stripping it away. For instance, on our tenth birthday he covered “Hooked on a Feeling” without a single “ooga chaka.” When he tackled Moby’s ubiquitous “Porcelain,” he ditched the string sample melody that soundtracked all those commercials. And his new cover of Blur’s “Song 2” walks the same path.

“Song 2” is best known for two words, instantly recognizable to soccer fans everywhere: “Woo hoo!” Most people would build their covers around that holler, since it’s the only part many people recognize. For Lindestad, they’re an afterthought. On his mellow electronic cover, he croons the words over a soft synth bed. Continue reading »

Feb 232018

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

i'm your fan leonard cohen

Is I’m Your Fan the most influential tribute album ever? That’s not something you can really measure, so let me just say this: Without it, you probably wouldn’t know “Hallelujah.”

So we’ll start there, at the last track, the secret chord. “Hallelujah” became the most clichéd of Cohen covers, but when John Cale picked it for this 1991 tribute album, it was the disc’s most obscure selection. The song had only come out in America the previous year, after Cohen’s label Columbia refused to release 1985 album Various Positions stateside. Explaining his decision, Columbia president Walter Yetnikoff issued the famous quote: “Leonard, we know you’re great, but we don’t know if you’re any good.” Continue reading »

Feb 162018

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

jade bird covers

On the 25-track David Bowie tribute album Howard Stern’s show released this week, many of the names were familiar: Billy Corgan, Dawes, Peter Frampton, etc. One that didn’t ring a bell was Jade Bird. But her version of Bowie’s Hunky Dory deep cut “Quicksand” was a surprising highlight. I wondered how I was so late to discover her.

Turns out, I wasn’t. Despite running in such heady company, Jade Bird (her real name) has only released one EP so far. But things are moving fast for her, and by the time she releases her debut record, she might not be so under the radar any longer.

She was just nominated for the BBC Sound of 2018 which, if you’re not in the UK, might not mean much. But it’s as good a measure as any of who might blow up in the next year. Winners in the past decade include the then-little-known Sam Smith, HAIM, and, oh, Adele. Hell, the losers include The Weeknd, King Krule, and Savages (and that was just in one year!). Continue reading »

Feb 152018
pj harvey an acre of land

You have probably never heard “An Acre of Land.” It’s a very old English folk ballad, and not even a particularly well-known one in that niche. But you don’t need to have ever heard the song before to be stunned by PJ Harvey’s new cover of it.

The few other versions I dug on YouTube tend to be sung by people with thick accents off albums with titles like Widdecombe Fair. And they’re pretty, in a Fairport Convention-sings-songs-of-yesteryear sort of way. But Harvey’s version, a collaboration with London composer Harry Escott for the movie Dark River, is a different beast entirely. Listening to it doesn’t feel like a history lesson. It feels like something fresh, unburdened by tradition. Continue reading »

Feb 072018
lykke li time in a bottle

Lykke Li rarely records covers, but when she does, they matter. From her revelatory take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs” to her live version of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” she has an unbroken streak of winning reinventions of unlikely songs. And she continues that streak on her latest, a cover of “Time in a Bottle” that sounds more like James Bond than Jim Croce. Continue reading »