Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
“Stagolee” or “Staggerlee,” or “Stack-O-Lee,” or other variants, is the musical retelling of a cold-blooded murder. Some trace the song to roots in English murder ballads, but it seems pretty clear that the precipitating event that led to this much-recorded story was the killing of William Lyons by “Stag” Lee Shelton at the Bill Curtis Saloon in St. Louis at Christmas time in 1895. Lyons’ death certificate is reproduced above.
By all accounts, Shelton was a “bad man,” a pimp and gambler, and he and Lyons were at the saloon, drunk and arguing over politics or some such, when Lyons made what probably didn’t feel like a fatal mistake — he took Shelton’s Stetson hat, possibly after Shelton had crushed Lyons’ derby. Accordingly, Shelton shot him dead. Rather than lead to calls to ban handguns, this seemingly pedestrian, if horrific, event (it was apparently just one of 5 similar murders that day in St. Louis) sparked a legend that has been recorded more than 400 times, in virtually every style imaginable.
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Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.
Fans of Gram Parsons are generally divided into three camps over 1999′s Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons. The first thinks it’s brilliant, a reverent homage to a great songwriter and a testament to the weight of his country rock influence. The second likes the raw sound of another tribute album better: 1993′s Conmemorativo: A Tribute to Gram Parsons, featuring the likes of Bob Mould and The Mekons. And the third camp feels that the only person that can sing Gram Parsons songs is Parsons himself.
If we took the philosophy of the last opinion to heart, this site wouldn’t even exist. While the so-called purists would deny any version other than the one by the original artist as being legitimate, it certainly would be a dull world if all musicians were content to color within the lines without recognizing that someone else before them drew those lines. While Conmemorativo does contain some gems, there are two reasons why Return of the Grievous Angel is better: great production values, and the guiding hand of Emmylou Harris, who worked so closely with Parsons and who served as executive producer of the compilation. So count us among the members of that first camp. Now let’s meet the man who inspired the album. Continue reading »
With the release of their debut album Moonwater, Brooklyn-based pop-rockers CHAPPO are ready to start touring the country. In order to kick off this tour, the band released Nothin’ To Sell You, an EP of some pretty fantastic covers. Continue reading »
Taking 90s hip hop songs and doing a current indie cover of it has become a bit of a worn out novelty, especially the acoustic take. Luckily, Chicago indie rockers Fort Frances go beyond the expected with their latest in a series of covers. Over the last six months we have seen them release great covers of Beck’s “Guess I’m Doing Fine” and Paul Simon’s “The Only Living Boy in New York.” Now the band has re-invented a classic summer party song. Continue reading »
About one week ago Beck made news at Cover Me with his version of “I Only Have Eyes for You” as a contribution to artist Doug Aitken’s “Song 1.” Continuing with acts of social contribution, Beck has been recruited by Christy Turlington Burns to record a song for the compilation, Every Mother Counts 2012, as an effort to raise money for Burns’ Every Mother Counts, a maternal-health advocacy organization. Continue reading »
Artist Doug Aitken’s “Song 1,” a 360-degree video projection on the Hirshhorn Museum, features “I Only Have Eyes for You,” covered by several artists, which according to the Hirshhorn website is to “emphasize the universality of the song.” Contributions include covers by Devendra Banhart, LCD Soundsystem, No Age, and Beck. Continue reading »
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Millions of words, if not tens of millions, have been written about Bob Dylan‘s Blonde on Blonde since its 1966 release – how “the quintessential New York hipster” (as Al Kooper called him) met the cream of the Nashville session musician crop and the alchemy that resulted; how the album, Dylan’s third in fourteen months, saw him at the pinnacle of his songwriting powers, marrying surreal imagery to wrenching emotion with lyrics that can truly be called poetry; how critics from that day to this recognize it as less an album than a great artistic achievement of the 20th century; how it inspired so many who heard it (to name just one, Robyn Hitchcock called “Visions of Johanna” “the reason I started writing songs” on his all-Dylan cover album Robyn Sings). So, rather than dwell on all the stories surrounding the songs, let’s move right on to hearing those songs again for the first time, thanks to the (re)creative abilities of the following fourteen performers. (Thanks as well to reader JoeLer for suggesting that Blonde on Blonde receive the Cover Me Full Album treatment.) Continue reading »
Quickies rounds up new can’t-miss covers. Download ‘em below.
• Last month, the Rosebuds covered the Talking Heads. The choice was a natural – both groups deliver poppy, off-kilter melodies that worm into your head for days. Salt-n-Pepa, on the other hand, haven’t influenced Ivan and Kelly Rosebud one iota. They just re-released it for free on their new Bandcamp.
MP3: The Rosebuds – Push It (Salt-n-Pepa cover) Continue reading »