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 202019
 
idles the streets

If you’re a music and/or data nerd, journalist Rob Mitchum’s annual spreadsheet compiling the albums on every publication’s year-end lists is fascinating. Long before the Village Voice‘s Pazz & Jop poll comes out, you can see, mathematically, where the critical consensus is landing.

In 2018, most names in the upper echelons came as no surprise if you follow music journalism. But, to me, one name near the top stood out: IDLES. Though near the top, this British punk band appeared on far fewer publications’ year-end lists than the likes of Kacey Musgraves or Cardi B. But here’s the thing: When IDLES did appear, they ranked high. In fact, their album’s average year-end-list ranking was higher than anyone else in the top 50. They were either in someone’s top ten, or not there at all. Continue reading »

Feb 132019
 
emel mathlouthi covers

Emel Mathlouthi knows her cover songs. The Tunisian singer-songwriter, who first gained fame when a viral protest song got her dubbed the “Voice of the Arab Spring” (she performed at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony – take that, Grammys), told us about her five favorite covers last year. She also, on pretty short notice, pulled together a rare “All Along the Watchtower” cover that sounds nothing like all the other “All Along the Watchtower” covers for my book party (no joke, friends still mention her performance to me two years later). But her newest cover may be her best yet. Certainly her most unrecognizable.

She’s sort of covered Jeff Buckley before, performing a pretty straightforward interpretation of his “Hallelujah” cover early in her career. But that finger-picked ballad wouldn’t prepare listeners for what she’s done to Buckley’s lesser-known song “New Year’s Prayer,” also called “Fall in Light.” Dark and electronic and storming, her cover, rechristened “Fallen,” sounds like Nine Inch Nails or Portishead. Anyone but Jeff Buckley. Continue reading »

Feb 072019
 
chris thile wilco cover

Sorry, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: Wilco’s best album is 2007’s Sky Blue Sky. One of their quietest records (except when guitarist Nels Cline lets loose), and less experimental than their much-acclaimed previous efforts, it gets nowhere near the love a handful of other records too. Even the band doesn’t seem to care that much; on their most recent tour, they performed songs from YHF, A Ghost Is Born, Being There, and the two newest records more often, according to Setlist.fm (Summerteeth would have beaten it too, except they play “Impossible Germany” every night). But the album sneaks up on you, and now occasionally appears on an underrated-masterpiece list. Continue reading »

Jan 312019
 
best cover songs january
Beck – Tarantula (Colourbox cover)

Few expected the movie Roma to be as big a hit as it was (it’s tied for the most Oscar nominations). Even Sony must not have, as they’re just getting around to releasing a soundtrack two months after release – and as Music Inspired By The Film Roma, i.e. must that doesn’t actually appear in the film. But Beck’s beautiful cover of 4AD group Colourbox arrives better late than never. Accompanied by an orchestra and Leslie Feist on backing vocals, he’s never sounded more like Peter Gabriel. Continue reading »

Jan 242019
 
vic mensa zombie cover

Remember when Lil Wayne decided to become a rock and roll guitar hero, despite clearly not knowing how to play the guitar? Or, before that, Ice-T first ditched rap in his metal band Body Count? There’s a new name to add that list: rising rapper Vic Mensa, who has just debuted a new alt-rock band with a heavy cover of the Cranberries’ “Zombie.” Continue reading »

Jan 122019
 

The following is a chapter from my book ‘Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time’ that got left on the cutting room floor due to space. For 19 more stories like it, from Hendrix’s “Watchtower” to Devo’s “Satisfaction,” buy the book Variety called “a music snob’s dream come true” at Amazon, IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, or anywhere else.

led zeppelin dazed and confused

It’s like if your baby is kidnapped at two-years-old and raised by another woman. All these years later, it’s her kid.
— Jake Holmes

Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut album came out 50 years ago today. But if you’ve purchased it more recently, you might have seen the following writing credit under the song “Dazed and Confused”: “By Jimmy Page; Inspired by Jake Holmes.”

Those seven words may seem pretty innocuous on the page, but that phrase is the result of decades of controversy and litigation. Those words reveal questions of what counts as a cover song, how an artist needs to credit a songwriter from whom they draw material, and where the line lies between homage and theft.
Continue reading »