For thirteen years, siblings Sara and Sean Watkins – best known as two-thirds of Nickel Creek – have been hosting a monthly “Watkins Family Hour” concert in L.A. Frequent collaborators include Fiona Apple and the Heartbreakers’ Benmont Tench, and they and more have finally recorded a debut album due out next week. It’s all covers, and the closing track is especially timely with the Grateful Dead just wrapping things up last week: the Dead’s American Beauty classic “Brokedown Palace.”
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).
Today’s question, courtesy of staffer Stephen Gwilliams: What’s your favorite cover of a song from a musical?
Fiona Apple is not shy about her political views. A vegan and friend to all the little animals, Apple recently teamed up with Chipotle for this adorable but chilling vision of a dystopian future, calling out factory farming and inspiring offices all over America to make the intern pick up Chipotle for lunch every day for the next two weeks.
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!
Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, was born Steven Georgiou 65 years ago today. His popularity exploded in the early-mid 1970s, and then, for all intents and purposes, he vanished from the music world for decades. Some of his disappearance can be attributed to changing musical tastes, but the main reason for the long disruption in his musical career was his conversion to Islam. Unlike his contemporary Richard Thompson, who converted to Islam a few years earlier, Stevens’ conversion not only led him to stop performing, but also embroiled him in controversy; his comments about the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie in 1989 caused a typical media overreaction, with calls for (and actual) destruction of Cat Stevens albums and the removal of a very good cover of “Peace Train” from later pressings of a 10,000 Maniacs album.
In the 1990s, Islam began a slow return to performing, initially focusing on Islamic music and issues; more recently, he has returned to secular music, often with charitable purposes. His appearances included performing at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s satirical pre-election “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” where he sang “Peace Train,” while Ozzy Osbourne sang “Crazy Train.”
Rave On Buddy Holly, arguably the most hyped cover album of the year, finally drops this week. Rampant previews hinted that the album would be something special, and the A-list lineup of artists doesn’t disappoint. Rave On is a solid, carefully curated collection of tracks from Buddy Holly‘s surprisingly extensive catalog, a worthy tribute to the rock pioneer.
Choosing standouts from such a varied and high-profile set of covers is a challenge. Some of the best moments come from contributors who chose to keep their covers low-key. Dan Auerbach’s vocals gracefully carry the Black Keys‘ quiet, percussion-based opener “Dearest,” while Fiona Apple and Jon Brion trip through a pitch-perfect duet in “Everyday.” My Morning Jacket offers the elegantly subdued “True Love Ways,” embellished with a lovely string section.
You know the story by now. Rave On Buddy Holly drops later this month and the label has been releasing a steady stream of preview tracks for weeks now. Well, here are two more.
First, She & Him deliver a by-the-books cover of “Oh Boy.” The duet angle adds a little beachy vibe, but otherwise it’s not a huge departure (via Stereogum). Fiona Apple and Jon Brion’s version of “Everyday,” on the other hand, offers a quiet acoustic breath of fresh open air. The simple melody shines through with quiet strumming and xylophone.
Check out both tracks below. Here are links to all the previously released songs:
• The Black Keys cover “Dearest”
• Modest Mouse covers “That’ll Be the Day”
• Cee-Lo Green covers “You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care)”
• Paul McCartney covers “It’s So Easy”
• Julian Casablancas covers “Rave On”
• Florence and the Machine covers “Not Fade Away”
• My Morning Jacket covers “True Love Ways”
She & Him – Oh Boy (Buddy Holly cover)
Fiona Apple and Jon Brion – Everyday (Buddy Holly cover)
Rave On Buddy Holly drops June 28th.