Sep 182017
 
lumineers dylan cover

Many musicians cover Bob Dylan songs, but few pick “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” It’s easy to see why. The song has one chord, very little melody, and a whole lot of dense lyrics (even by Dylan standards). As a result, most of the few covers out there tend to be a slog.

So all credit due to The Lumineers and Andrew Bird, who manage to make it their own on a new cover for Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary. The “Ho Hey” bass drum propels the track forward and Bird’s violin breaks give the tune a slight Middle Eastern feel. Continue reading »

Aug 282017
 
cover me book

Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Songs Of All Time comes out October 3. It dives deep into twenty iconic covers, from Elvis’s “Hound Dog” through Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love.” I interviewed artists like David Byrne and Roger Daltrey to get the untold stories behind their greatest covers. You can read all about it here.

Now we’ve got a special bonus for anyone who preorders: a free digital album of other covers of those same songs.

What’s the greatest “Take Me to the River” that’s not by Al Green or the Talking Heads? My favorite “Hurt” untouched by either of those men in black? An “I Will Always Love You” that sounds like the artist has never heard either Dolly Parton or Whitney Houston’s versions? This mix answers all those questions. Continue reading »

Aug 222017
 
joan osborne dylan

Judging by album sales, more people have probably heard Joan Osborne’s cover of “Man in the Long Black Coat” – on her 1995 triple-platinum debut Relish, aka the album with “One of Us” – than ever heard Bob Dylan’s original (Oh Mercy hasn’t even gone Gold after almost 30 years). And though she gets tarred with the one-hit-wonder brush due to plaintively wondering what if God was one of us (a song whose history we dug into recently), she’s always been a fine song interpreter even when flying farther under the industry radar. Now, after a strong soul-covers album in 2008’s Bring It On Home, she’s bringing it all back home with a full-length Dylan tribute: Songs of Bob Dylan.

Like “Man in the Long Black Coat,” deep cuts and newer songs make up a number of the albums songs (“Tryin’ to Get to Heaven,” “High Water (For Charley Patton)”). But the first single is a classic, “Tangled Up in Blue.” Continue reading »

Jun 082017
 
jeffrey foucault covers

When we posted covers of every song off Bob Dylan’s 1978 album Street Legal, we discovered many tracks had rarely been covered. “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” was not among them. Even on a divisive album, Street Legal haters or agnostics can agree that “Señor” is solid. We included Calexico’s gorgeous flamenco-inflected cover in that post, but singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault’s beautiful new acoustic version gives that a run for its money.

Foucault, like me, is an ardent Street Legal defender. And for those who can’t get beyond Dylan’s big band and backing singers, his tender and emotive delivery should help drive the point home that “Señor” is one of Bob’s all-time great songs.

We asked him to tell us how he came to cover this song. Here’s what he told us. Continue reading »

May 192017
 
Cover Me

As we’ve noted already, 2017 marks Cover Me’s tenth birthday. We’ll have some more celebratory posts leading up to the actual date this fall, but I’m thrilled to announce one thing that’s on deck for October: the release of my first book, Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time!

Ever since I started this site, friends and readers have suggested that I should write a book about cover songs (surprisingly, a comprehensive book doesn’t really exist). For years, I resisted. “That’s like saying ‘I’m going to write a book about original songs’,” I’d snarkily reply – i.e., that’s a stupid idea. Cover songs seemed too broad a category. There’s no grand unifying theory of cover songs to fit tidily between two book covers; it’s too big and messy and wonderful a tent for that.

Aretha FranklinAfter years of saying no, I finally came up with the solution. I wouldn’t write a book about cover songs – instead, I would write a book about twenty specific cover songs, and through those twenty covers, a broader narrative would emerge.

The story of covers as traced in Cover Me involves artistic triumphs and music-industry shenanigans. It touches on trends in record-making, music videos, and the internet’s impact on music (did you know the first viral song was a cover?). There are beautiful moments of unlikely artists coming together, and some uglier instances of exploitation and racism. Every major change in the music industry since the advent of rock and roll finds some expression in the world of cover songs. Continue reading »

May 122017
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Blood on the Tracks

Tired of hearing hoary old crooners covering hoary deceased crooners? Try this as an antidote. 1975’s Blood on the Tracks was Bob Dylan’s fifteenth studio album, and is usually in the critical running for his best, vying with the earlier Blonde on Blonde (covered here). (Of course, whenever a new Dylan record is released, it is compulsory to be proclaimed as a “return to form,” that status seldom lasting until the ink dries and Blonde or Blood regains its rightful pole position.) Let me go on record here: Blonde is a bit meh, with rather too much filler for my tastes, so it is always Blood for me.

Blood on the Tracks was also my first full immersion in Bob, Greatest Hits not quite counting. See, a pal o’mine had access to discounted CBS recordings, half price if I recall. I had my eye on a witchy boho girl, like me newly arrived at University. She had her eye on my discount and, beyond a serious 40 minutes of otherwise silence, as we listened to my purchase of Blood, a prompted and suggested gift for her, that was that. She thanked me, apologized for giving me the bum’s rush, but she had to go out, you see, with the flash harry further along the corridor. I was so hurt, my emotions imbued by and immersed in Bob’s own heartbreak, that I bought a second copy. Probably full price, too.
Continue reading »