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.

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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 »

Jan 262016
 

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

LeadBellyNY

“In The Pines,” AKA “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” AKA “Black Girl,” is a traditional Appalachian folk song, nearly a century and a half old, that encompasses elements of searing heartbreak, perceived betrayal, death (by decapitation in many cases), and murder. Not to mention the fact the the song title is named after a location where “the sun don’t ever shine” and “we shiver when the cold wind blows.”

Not exactly “Kumbaya,” right? Which is fortunate, because if this song had been about the warm and fuzzies, it never would have lasted to become the haunting classic it remains today.

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Nov 202015
 

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

bob ramona

Bob Dylan scholars have determined that “To Ramona” is a song about Joan Baez; Dylan’s warning her that the folk protest movement will draw her in deep, but he recognizes that she doesn’t necessarily have a problem with that, and much as he loves and wants her, he has to let her think for herself, both for her sake and for his. That’s a pretty specific interpretation, yet the song resounds in the hearts of thousands, millions, as a love song they can relate to their own lives, in their own ways. It speaks to Dylan’s genius that he can draw the universal from the singular instead of the other way around.
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