Oct 232018
 
Dwight Yoakam

You would think Dwight Yoakam is as country as they come – he scored his first number-one single off an album called Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room. And when expressing excitement over his recent bluegrass album, he says (and sounds right saying), “Wee doggies!” How country is Dwight Yoakam? When he came caroling on Nashville’s doorstep in the late 1970s, Nashville basically pretended it wasn’t home. The genre was leaning more and more in the direction of pop-country, and here was someone who sounded like Merle Haggard. And Buck Owens (with whom Yoakam would collaborate). And Johnny Cash (who would call Yoakam his “favorite male artist”).

Still, there’s a reason Time once referred to Dwight Yoakam as a renaissance man. While his guitar arrangements and twang are country the core, the man himself represents a bounty of styles. After all, he didn’t give up when Nashville wasn’t receptive; he headed to LA. There, he played hillbilly music in punk and rock clubs – attracting, in part, a demographic of fans affectionately known as cowpunks – and it’s clear some osmosis of the scene took place.

The counterintuitive influence runs both ways. Just as punk and rock color his song selection, presentation, and interests (asked what he was listening to in a 2005 interview, he answered Green Day and Jack White), his rustic sound speaks to those far outside genre bounds. The compliments accompanying his music videos encompass dyed-in-the-wool Hank Williams fans and metalheads alike. This stylistic versatility of his coupled with a loyalty to roots helps explain the success he’s experienced in covering songs that, well, you’re not supposed to cover.
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Jul 312018
 
Arctic Monkeys – Lipstick Vogue (Elvis Costello cover)

Arctic Monkeys got a lot of attention covering the Strokes last week (especially because on his new album, Alex Turner sings: “I just want to be one of the Strokes”). But I preferred their wonderfully sleazy “Lipstick Vogue” cover, played in honor of Costello as he recovered from cancer surgery. Turner’s a product of his influences; in addition to the Strokes and Elvis, he appears to have his Nick Cave snake slither down cold. Continue reading »

Jul 202018
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

There was nothing that preceded it. I didn’t have those words. I didn’t have that melody. And I was playing chords and all of a sudden, I sang that. And I couldn’t believe it. I was dumbstruck…. I have no idea where that came from. It was far about the level I was writing at the time…. I was sort of conscious that it was a gift. And I was very emotionally moved by it.

Paul Simon knew he had something special when he wrote the first two verses of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Since Simon wrote the song in a higher key than he was used to singing, he also knew the song was meant for one man and one man only to sing. Art Garfunkel demurred at first (“You have a nice falsetto, Paul, why don’t you sing it?”), out of a giving spirit more than anything else; it didn’t take long for Simon to talk him into it. The song needed a third verse in order to properly build up (Simon whipped one up in the studio), and it took seventy-two takes to record, but “Bridge” came together beautifully. Simon may have felt that Garfunkel’s gospel touch was “more Methodist than Baptist,” but Clive Davis, head of Columbia, knew what they had immediately. Even at a longish (for a single) five minutes, he announced that it would be the first single, first track, and title song of their next record.

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Jul 112018
 
guns roses heartbreak hotel

In the ‘50s when Elvis Presley shook his pelvis and sang his rowdy brand of rock n’ roll, America exploded. Kids loved it, parents hated it, religious nuts denounced it and racists accused him of infecting white America with black culture.

By the late ’80s, he was practically considered wholesome, harmless entertainment when Guns N’ Roses came along. They were loud, dirty, drunken buffoons, who dressed like slobs and played fast, dirty, misogynistic music. The MTV generation went wild, while their parents, who grew up on Elvis, naturally freaked. One of my fifth-grade classmates’ moms actually mailed copies of the group’s lyrics around to all of our parents warning them of the music’s dangers.

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Jul 102018
 
zayn malik elvis cover

Three hours after we posted our Best Beyoncé Covers Ever countdown last month, Zayn Malik released a terrific version of “Me, Myself, and I” (it came at least in time for our Best of June list). Luckily, his new Elvis cover arrives before any best-Elvis-covers ranking – because it would surely rank high.

Zayn’s former One Direction bandmate Harry Styles has made notable rock moves since the boy band’s hiatus, having a genuine hit with a song that sounds like ’70s rock radio. So Harry covering Elvis would not surprise (frankly, judging by the number of “Styles Channels Elvis with…” headlines in the past year, it’s shocking he hasn’t). But Zayn Malik displays less overt affinity for rock and roll, which makes his new “Can’t Help Falling in Love” cover more surprising – and also, probably, better. Continue reading »

Apr 112018
 

Check out more Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2018 cover features here.

rock and roll hall of fame covers

This week we’ve posted tributes to three of this year’s six Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees: The Cars, Dire Straits, and Nina Simone. And lord knows we’ve posted plenty of covers of the other three over the years: Bon Jovi, The Moody Blues, and “Early Influence” inductee Sister Rosetta Tharpe. But to celebrate them all in one place in advance of this weekend’s induction ceremony, we thought we’d round up a few of the best covers we didn’t include in all those other features. Continue reading »