Bill Frisell, a legend of jazz and guitar and the creator of one of our favorite cover albums of last year, sat down with Fretboard Journal to play a cover of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”. But if you weren’t reading this on a website with a focus on cover songs, I think Bill’s almost unrecognizable version could have fooled you.
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Mike is back in his hometown of Cleveland after many years away. His return was not necessarily the reason the Cavs won the NBA finals, but it hasn’t been ruled out. He’s been writing his essays for Cover Me since 2011, 4 states ago. He still thinks the Counting Crows do a damn fine cover and he loved being part of the crew that got to find the best Bob Dylan covers for Dylan’s 70th birthday.
Ryan Adams has written some great original tunes over the years, and he certainly knows how to lay down an incredible cover. But on his recent appearance on BBC 2 Radio to promote his forthcoming sixteenth studio album, Prisoner, he didn’t try to do too much with a Radiohead tune, and it turns out that’s just fine.
The final track from Nirvana’s breakthrough classic Nevermind doesn’t get as much cover love as the rest of outstanding tracks on that album. “Something in the Way” is almost a fragment of a song; you have to strain your ears to interpret Kurt Cobain’s whispered lyrics (second verse, same as the first) and in the end you are left with only a piece of a haunted tale. The refrain feels loud in comparison, but the most prominent contributor there is a cello. It’s a beautiful and chilling song, but tough to make it your own with so little content, already done so well.
We’ve often discussed what makes a cover song “good.” And while each listener has their own subjective criteria, certain themes do reveal themselves in these discussions. One theme that we tend to highlight is an artist making a song his or her own. It’s probably fair to say Scandroid’s recent cover of Tears for Fears’ “Shout” misses this critical criteria. I’d argue it’s good anyway.
Last year, Ryan Adams shocked the music world with his earnest track-for-track cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. Initially, news of the album was assumed to be either a joke or purely inspired by irony, but the finished product was strong enough to land a spot on our favorite cover albums of 2015. Swift responded favorably to Adams’ tribute, but as far as we know she hasn’t gone into the studio to cover any of his songs.