Mar 022018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

emel mathlouthi covers

We first discovered Emel Mathlouthi at last year’s Northside Festival. But let me be clear: when I say “discovered,” I hardly mean she was unknown. In fact, we were very late on the bandwagon; the Tunisian singer-songwriter is an international star. A few years back she became known as the “Voice of the Arab Spring” after one of her song’s became an anthem for the revolution. She even performed it at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2015:

As you can see in that video, her original songs are stunning. Her most recent album, Ensen, was my personal favorite album of 2017, and today she releases a follow-up set of inventive remixes of those songs titled Ensenity. You can get a taste over at The Fader.

With a voice like that, you won’t be surprised to learn she can deliver some pretty stunning covers too. She can belt “Hallelujah” with the best of ‘em, and has equally beautiful takes on David Bowie and Björk under her belt. She was even kind enough to put together a pretty mind-blowing version of “All Along the Watchtower” for my book party. It’s the rare cover that owes next to nothing to Jimi Hendrix: Continue reading »

Jan 312018
 
best cover songs january

At the end of every year, we work for weeks curating our annual Best of the Year list (here’s last year’s). We’re monitoring what comes out all year though, so this month I thought: why wait? Here’s a more impulsive and spontaneous list, some songs we’ve written about already and others we didn’t get to. Just some great covers that stood out as the month comes to a close. Continue reading »

Jan 172018
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

steve earle covers

Steve Earle turns 63 today. He’s one of the all-time great Americana/roots-rock/alt-country/whatever-you-want-to-call-it songwriters, and one who has successfully stepped out of the Nashville hit machine grind he started in to one of those “distinguished statesman” careers many of his Guitar Town-era peers no doubt envy.

In addition to his own songwriting, he records fantastic covers. His tribute album to early mentor Townes Van Zandt was quite moving, and the early-rock covers on his album with Shawn Colvin in 2016 were terrific (check out “You Were On My Mind”). He gave The Wire a season’s theme song covering Tom Waits’ “Way Down in the Hole” while acting on the show too as a recovering addict (hardly a stretch). And, my personal two favorites, he delivers arguably the definitive versions of Warren Zevon’s “Reconsider Me” and Randy Newman’s “Rednecks.”

But it’s his birthday, so we’ll let him take a well-earned break. Instead, we’ve rounded up our favorite covers of other people doing his songs. His recordings make ideal cover sources in the same way Bob Dylan’s or Tom Waits’ do: brilliant songs delivered by limited-appeal voices. It’s no surprise that “better” (or at least less divisive) country singers cover Earle constantly; Emmylou Harris alone has covered a half dozen of his songs. So we’ll start there. Continue reading »

Jan 162018
 
joan baez tom waits cover

This week, Joan Baez revealed she will be retiring from the road at the end of 2018 . The announcement was accompanied, as these things often are, by an exhaustive list of tour dates and a new single. The song, a cover of Tom Waits’ “Whistle Down the Wind,” will be the title track for her upcoming studio album.

Baez has always been adept at interpreting other people’s music, covering tunes by the likes of The Band, the Beatles and practically making a career of singing Bob Dylan songs (and giving him a career too). Even today, four out of five of her top tracks on Spotify are covers; the great “Diamonds and Rust” is the exception.

Continue reading »

Dec 042017
 
2017 cover songs

Our official list of the Best Cover Songs of 2017 comes next week. But first, we’re continuing the tradition we started last year by rounding up some of the songs it most killed us to cut in a grab-bag post. No ranking, no writing, just a bunch of knockout covers. Continue reading »

Nov 102016
 
JoanBaez

Over the course of a career now in its sixth decade, Joan Baez has always had her ear to the ground for younger voices. She famously introduced a little-known songwriter named Bob Dylan to her already big audiences, and has continued to seek out newer songwriters ever since. On her most recent albums, she’s covered songs by Josh Ritter and Thea Gilmore. And now, on her current tour, she’s been covering the Antony and the Johnsons song “Another World.” Continue reading »