Let it never be said that Leonard Cohen songs fit a mold. Sure, he may carry the image of the rumbled old poet (who inspires sexual harassment suits), but his songs can go anywhere. Case in point: two wildly different covers that have recent graced our inbox.
Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe drops great covers every time we turn around. We posted our favorite five here, then followed up by premiering her version of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” Her latest examines songstress Patty Griffin‘s “Mary.” The song, from Griffin’s Flaming Red, offers a lovely acoustic tribute to one of America’s most underrated songwriters. Patty Griffin would surely approve of this bare-bones delivery that exposes what are some of Griffin’s finest lyrics. The song has also been covered by artists like Joan Baez, The Dixie Chicks, and…Kelly Clarkson.
Back in June Cover Me shone the spotlight on Canadian songstress Allison Crowe. We couldn’t fit in everything though, so that last post omitted the two renditions of Eurythmics‘ singer Annie Lennox’s “Why” from Crowe’s latest album, Spiral. Perhaps those recordings provided the impetus for a couple of Hollywood producers to call up Allison earlier this year to commission a recording of Eurythmics’ new wave classic “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”
“I learned this song, in its entirety, in the summer in about an hour to record as part of a movie soundtrack,” Allison tells Cover Me. “That didn’t pan out – but what did come of it was learning a song that I’ve always tinkered around with on the piano. I love Annie Lennox’s voice and songs. She’s a very cool lady – and extremely talented, so it’s a lot of fun to be able to cover more than one song of hers! There is something very healing about yelling ‘hold your head up – keep your head up’ at the top of your lungs.”
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
There are some voices that speak (or sing) for themselves. You know the ones. Voices where it doesn’t matter what they sing. Voices where it doesn’t really matter what instruments support them. Solomon Burke has such a voice. Jeff Buckley had it. Allison Crowe has it too.
Born in British Columbia, Crowe has amassed a loyal following in Canada and Europe. The songwriter’s songwriter pure tones sound like a bell, no show-off acrobatics necessary. The amazing thing isn’t just that she performs the best version of Leonard Cohen‘s oft-covered “Hallelujah” (sorry Jeff); the amazing thing is that she does so using the same solo piano style that everyone else does. There’s nothing particularly creative about it; her voice is just that good! So throw all those other “sensitive” covers. This one’s the keeper.
Her others are equally charming. The Beatles’ “In My Life” gets the uplifting piano too, while Cyndi Lauper‘s “Time after Time” mixes it up with – wait for it – a guitar! A full band joins in for Pearl Jam’s “Indifference” and the Rolling Stones’ “Shine a Light,” but as always Crowe’s voice is the star.
Elmore James is on the Mount Rushmore of influential blues artists. Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James would be the likely busts carved deep in granite on blues rock mountain. The case for the inclusion of Elmore James on this list of guitar luminaries is a relatively simple one. Look no further than “Dust My Broom,” “Rollin’ and Tumblin,” “The Sky is Crying,” and, of course, “Shake Your Moneymaker.”
They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Joni Mitchell turns 68 today and, in terms of influence, her star burns as bright as ever. As folk stages its umpteenth popular revival, a whole new generation of folkies, freak-folkies, neofolkies, and indie folkies have taken lessons from decades of her simple, heart-wrenching songs. Dozen of hip, Pitchfork-approved artists namecheck Mitchell in interviews and display an obvious debt in their songs. On Joni’s birthday, we pay tribute to her through some of their tributes.