The Band’s “Christmas Must Be Tonight” has always stood apart from the standard Christmas songs playing on the radio and in stores around this time of year. The song feels very loose and raw, a sharp contrast to the typical seasonal fare. It’s also completely free of sleigh bells or gimmicks, instead driven by all the same musical elements found in most of The Band’s best songs. Claiming “Christmas Must Be Tonight” as your favorite Christmas song is like claiming Die Hard as your favorite Christmas movie: yes, it’s technically Christmas-related, but really it’s just a great standalone product.
“I’ve got half a mind to leave you, but only half the heart to go.” Those words, first recorded by Ernest Tubb but written by Roger Miller, are bittersweet and funny. The song it came from, “Half a Mind,” shared those traits with many of Miller’s other songs. His songs blend the heartstring-pulling storytelling of country with a wry wit that enhances rather than distracts. Ok, maybe rhyming “purple” with “maple surple” is a little distracting, but it’s a worthwhile distraction.
On King of the Road, an upcoming new tribute album, the personnel runs the gamut from country stars like Brad Paisley to unexpected alt-rock acts like Cake. Country music icon Loretta Lynn’s cover of “Half a Mind” is one of three tracks currently available to stream from the album, which is due out August 31st. Lynn’s strong voice duels with the steel guitar here and really highlights the sadder aspect of the lyrics. At just over two minutes long it’s short and bittersweet – and a winner.
The other two songs available are Dolly Parton and Alison Krauss’s equally sad and gorgeously sung “The Last Word in Lonesome is Me” and Brad Paisley’s super goofy “Dang Me”. If the rest of the album is as strong as these early releases this is going to be a can’t miss tribute.
Singer-songwriter Laura Marling uses some of the same tools as Bob Dylan in her music: a knack for complex storytelling and acoustic guitar playing that rarely distracts from the vocals. But in her new cover of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” featured on the show Peaky Blinders, the differences between the two artists become immediately clear.
Husband and wife team Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, better known as Shovels & Rope, know their way around a good cover song. We’ve shared a handful of their covers here at the site over the years, including a couple of cuts from their 2015 collection of covers, Busted Jukebox, Volume 1. From that title, it’s almost as if they knew they’d be releasing more covers at some point. Well, surprise! This week sees the release of Busted Jukebox, Volume 2, following the same format of Volume 1: a wide-range of source material reimagined with the help of some musician friends.
It’s been a minute since Slothrust was last featured at Cover Me: three and a half years to be exact. But the bluesy trio is back on our radar with a new EP of cover songs, spearheaded (pun intended) by their excellent version of Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time”.
As we mentioned in our post on Slothrust’s version of Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral”, the influences and song stylings of the band run the gamut, and the tracklist of the forthcoming EP Show Me How You Want It To Be reflects that. From Sabbath to Spears, Marcy Playground to Al Green, there’s not much of a theme to the album. But if all the songs are as solid as “Baby One More Time”, the theme might just be “great covers”.
There’s something about Sade that’s hard to put your finger on. Her voice is beautiful, but always feels understated. Her music is soft, smooth R&B, but appeals to a population of listeners well outside the genre. With a career that has spanned over three decades, she’s made music that has influenced a wide range of artists. For proof, look no further than two recent covers by very different artists.
The first is by Rare Futures, a band started by Matthew Fazzi, the ex-guitarist of pop-punk group Taking Back Sunday. Rare Futures walk a line between rock and R&B in their cover of Sade’s 1992 hit “No Ordinary Love.” Their version is not revolutionary, but does add a little grit to the original. The song is heavy on bass and high hat and includes some callouts to the original: the hard stops following the heavy sighs and the spot-on harmonies are nice touches. The band throws in a heavier pre-chorus and nice dual guitar breakdown at the end, keeping the cover interesting.