Back when John Mellencamp went by John Cougar, he scored his first hit with 1979’s epic “I Need A Lover.” For the AV Club’s Undercover series, Hamilton Leithauser (formally of The Walkmen), took on the saga with his touring band and absolutely killed it.
Song of the Day posts one cool cover every morning. Catch up on past installments here.
Two facts influenced today’s pick: One, last Saturday was Farm Aid 25 and two, today John Mellencamp turns 59. So what better way to celebrate both occasions than with a cover Mellencamp performed at a previous Farm Aid? As a member of the Farm Aid Board of Directors, the man has sung alongside Willie Nelson and Neil Young at almost all of them. That’s a lot of “Rain on the Scarecrow”s.
This particular video comes from Farm Aid 2003. Mellencamp had just released Trouble No More, his terrific blues covers album, and played a couple cuts from it. With some hot resonator slide from guitarist Andy York, Robert Johnson’s blues standard “Stones in My Passway” rolls along like good electric blues should. Happy birthday, John!
Cover News is a weekly feature keeping you up to date on the goings-on in the world of cover tunes, tribute albums, etc. Plus, at the bottom we post the array of cover tunes we’ve been sent in the past week. Have you recorded a cool cover? Send an mp3 to the email address on the right and we’ll post it!
January’s Cover Commissions is up and running! Check out info on Kristy Brannon, then tell her what song you want to hear. [Cover Me]
Rihanna covers “Redemption Song” to raise money for the Haiti Relief Fun. Since it’s such a good cause, I’ll say no more. [iTunes]
Speak of Haiti (and who isn’t speaking of Haiti), so many covers in last night’s telecast. From classics (Bruce Springsteen doing “We Shall Overcome”) to newcomers (Taylor Swift tackling Better Than Ezra), all the stars stepped up their game for a good cause. All the performances will be available for purchase on iTunes Monday, with all proceeds going to help. [MTV]
Blondie covers from A to Z for, you know, the next time you need eight different version of “Heart of Glass.” [Berkeley Place]
Peter Gabriel gets epic in a full-orchestration cover of the Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is a Cage.” Wait for it. [Stereogum]
The “I Wish I Was There” moment of the week: The Swell Season covering Springsteen’s “Drive All Night” with Clarence Clemons’ nephew. Prepare to swoon. [YouTube]
Dear obnoxious “Freebird” requesters: Conan ended his show performing it with Will Ferrell, Beck, Bill Gibbons, and Ben Harper. You won’t get it any better, so maybe now you can shut up. [YouTube]
Starbucks continues its apparently annual Sweetheart series with a disc of new covers by Spoon, Jose Gonzalez, The Long Winters and more. [Consequence of Sound]
Grizzly Bear and Hot Chip come from the opposite end of the sonic spectrum, but as two blog darlings maybe it was inevitably one would cover the other. [I Guess I’m Floating]
Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard covers Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” for Seattle… [GIVE Seattle]
…while Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes covers it for Haiti. [Paste]
This Week’s Submissions
Doron Deutsch and the Astronauts – Famous Blue Raincoat (Leonard Cohen) [more]
Send your cover to the email address on the right!
The first post of the month always features a look at songs covering every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
The King of the Delta Blues Singers compilation didn’t come out until 23 years after Robert Johnson’s untimely death, but was such a force in the burgeoning folk movement of the early sixties that it quickly brought his music to the masses, inspiring young singers like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Rolling Stone called it the 27th greatest album of all time, and if that doesn’t qualify it for inclusion here I don’t know what does.
Peter Green – Terraplane Blues
He of Fleetwood Mac fame, Green ditched the grandiose pop sounds for his Robert Johnson Songbook. He can play slide guitar with the best of them though. If the Mac hadn’t worked out, he could have a good career in a bloozey bar band. [Buy]
Patti Smith – Come On In My Kitchen
Here it is, the pièce de résistance. Our Twitter followers will know I mentioned a cover I searched for for two years. Smith only released it on her rare Summer Cannibals single in 1996 and it is nowhere on the internet. Until now. Enjoy. [Buy]
Susan Tedeschi and the Derek Trucks Band – Walkin’ Blues
The Hellhound on My Trail tribute album features such heavy-hitters as Taj Mahal and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, but nothing tops Trucks leading wife Tedeschi through a soulful wail of a number. [Buy]
Beck – Last Fair Deal Gone Down
We recently posted a live version of Beck doing this one with one Mr. Jack White (scroll down for more of that young man), but here’s a studio version for the Harry Smith Project covers set. [Buy]
Bob Dylan – 32-20 Blues
Bob Dylan’s covered half these songs in his career. This is the most recent, released last year on his Tell-Tale Signs outtakes set. Stay glued to Twitter though; I’ll tweet out more Dylan Does Johnson later this week. [Buy]
Bob Margolin and Pinetop Perkins – Kind Hearted Woman Blues
Margolin’s got blues chops galore: he used to be in Muddy Waters’ band. The real star here is the boogie-woogie piano of Mr. Perkins, currently in his 96th year and still kicking. [Buy]
The White Stripes – If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day
The Stripes covered Johnson’s “Stop Breaking Down” on their first album, but this live recording comes from six years later, at a stop on their 2005 Get Behind Me Satan tour. Anyone who’s ever seen a live “Death Letter” (like this one) knows what Jack White is a blues-guitar badass. [Buy]
Johnny Winter – When You Got a Good Friend
Winter is known for his fiery electric guitar solos, but in this recording from Woodstock he shows he’s just as adept on acoustic. Give this man a slide and get the fuck out of his way. [Buy]
L?k?o – Ramblin’ On My Mind
It’s one of the unsolved riddles of the world why all music that comes out of Japan seems really bizarre, like made by A.D.D. children after a 24-hour Dragonball Z marathon. This comes off an all-Japanese tribute album Up Jumped the Devil: A Tribute to Robert Johnson and very few of the songs are recognizable. The re-re-remix sounds on this come off nicely though. [Buy]
John Mellencamp – Stones In My Passway
Mellencamp released blues/folk cover album Trouble No More to fulfill his contract with Columbia in 2003, proving that this “just a littly ditty ‘bout Jack and Diane” heartland rocker can sing the twelve-bar like no one’s business. [Buy]
Rory Block – Milkcow’s Calf Blues
Block comes from Princeton, NJ, but sounds straight off of Bessie Smith’s back porch. For more great Johnson covers like this, download to this fan-made Complete Covers collection. [Buy]
Cowboy Junkies – Me and the Devil Blues
This smokey late-night live recording brings folk, country, and Beelzebub himself to the table with creaky violin and Margo Timmins’ spooky vocal delivery. Satan may be in for a shock when this lass shows up. [Buy]
The Mountain Goats – Hellhound on My Trail
A nice indie-folk ending, where the same band who so memorably took on Ace of Base’s “I Saw the Sign” brings the same quiet magic to our man R.J. John Darnielle sings like a man tired of running, just about ready to let the hellhound have him. [Buy]