Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

“Sweet Jane” is a great song. Released on 1970′s Loaded, the Velvet Underground’s last studio album featuring Lou Reed, it immediately became a staple of FM radio, despite its odd and provocative lyrics, unusual structure, and unconventional sound, and it continues to get airplay to this day. What’s the appeal? Part of it, of course, is the riff (which apparently includes a “secret chord”), part of it is the indescribable cool of Reed’s delivery, and part of it is that magic that makes some songs great and others not so much. According to Rolling Stone, it is the 335th greatest song of all time, which is curiously specific. And now, in honor of Reed’s passing earlier this week at the age of 71, the time has come to write about it here on Cover Me.
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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 »

This was the first year that the  free, three-day music festival Hardly Strictly Bluegrass was without it’s founder Warren Hellman. Warren passed late last year and left a San Francisco tradition that is being faithfully carried out by an army of music lovers, bigger and better than ever. This year’s festival in Golden Gate Park featured 6 stages,  a crowd of 600,000 and 88 acts with a variety of artists like Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, The Lumineers, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Conor Oberst, The Civil Wars, Son Volt, Ralph Stanley, Nick Lowe and many more. Check out a handful of the many covers from the weekend below! 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!

Today we conclude our look at Decade, the compleat (at the time) Neil Young, by sharing covers of every song on sides five and six. (If you missed sides one and two, click here; go here for sides three and four.) Continue reading »

Dec 092011

When we think back to this year, we might remember 2011 as the year that the whole concept of the “cover album” became more fluid, and not always for the better. Thanks to the increased prominence of sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud, a cover album could be conceived, recorded, and shared in the space of a weekend. This didn’t necessarily lead to better cover albums, but it certainly led to more of them. They came in all formats – digital, CD, vinyl, and even cassette-only – and from all directions – labels, blogs, and even some magazines.

Which, we like to think, makes this list that much more helpful. In a year where the biggest single-artist cover album we got came from William Shatner, it proved a particular challenge to dig through the many obscure artists and assorted tributes and extract the gems. Gems there certainly were though, be they from newcomers making an impression with their favorite songs or old-timers honoring groups that influenced them decades ago. It may have taken a bit more work to find them, but the end result is as strong a selection as we’ve seen.

Continue to page 2 to read the list…

In September 1973 a unique and mystical patch of Southern California was the site of a heroin overdose, a corpse-napping and a subsequent well-intended, but badly botched, cremation. The deceased was alt-country patron saint/ex-Byrd and Burrito Brother/friend of Keith Richards: Gram Parsons. Just as the Rolling Stones were initially inspired by the likes of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and Solomon Burke, there would be a period in the early 1970’s where Parsons would occupy Keith’s attention and briefly influence the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.

Given the broad sonic reach of the “alt-country” genre, one might expect that Paint It Black: An Alt Country Tribute to the Rolling Stones to be a fully plugged in, loud, proud and boisterous salute capturing all the sweat, swagger and energy of the group. But that would require leaning on the Mick Jagger side of the sound. Instead, producer Jim Sampas has chosen to throttle-down, and to lead with Keith (with the Grievous Angel as guardian). It results in an exceptionally cohesive and even-keeled album – a rarity among tribute compilations. That should come as no surprise, though, since we know Sampas for his work on other quality salutes: last year’s Subterranean Homesick Blues: A Tribute to Bob Dylan’s ‘Bringing It All Back Home’, Badlands: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’, and This Bird Has Flown: A Tribute To The Beatles ‘Rubber Soul’. Continue reading »

This March, we pit 64 Beatles covers against each other in what we call Moptop Madness.

Yesterday’s winners: Coope, Boyes & Simpson, “Think for Yourself” and The Damned, “Help!”

Some unique matchups this morning. It’s the battle of the Bobs for match one as Bob Dylan’s live “Something” challenges Bobby McFerrin’s a cappella “Blackbird.” Then, for what will likely be the only time in the entire contest, two covers of the same song square off. Who does the better “Run for Your Life”: Cowboy Junkies or Spiers & Boden?

Listen to each pairing below, then vote for your favorite. For added sway, try to convince others to vote your way in the comments. Voting closes in 24 hours. Continue reading »

A truly unique voice with an unusual perspective on life, Vic Chesnutt created some of the most fascinating alternative folk music from 1990 until his death by his own hand on Christmas Day of 2009. Paraplegic as the result of a car accident at the age of 18, he received a good deal of acclaim, but little success, continually shuffling between labels and never breaking through to the mainstream. He always garnered the respect of his peers, however – the Sweet Relief Two tribute album of 1996 featured none other than Madonna, R.E.M. and Smashing Pumpkins. Canadian alt-country legends Cowboy Junkies now offer their tribute to Chesnutt in the form of their new album Demons, featuring 11 covers of his songs.

The Junkies built their career on well-chosen and well-crafted covers (you can see our recent feature here) and they continue the tradition nicely in the present album. They open with a raucous take on “Wrong Piano,” originally a slow contemplative ballad from 1995’s Is The Actor Happy. The Junkies reimagine the track with distorted lead guitar and loud “Like A Rolling Stone”-style organ, only bringing it down to allow vocalist Margo Timmins to deliver the verses. Continue reading »

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