You know the story – on August 15, 1969, an estimated 400,000 people coalesced on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in upstate Bethel, New York, for “3 days of Peace & Music” at a music and art fair that ultimately defined a generation. Today marks the golden fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock, and to celebrate the occasion, the staff at Cover Me are going “back to the garden” to wrap you in the Top 50 covers performed by the legendary artists who graced the stage during that long weekend.
In high school, a friend and I drove two hours to a blues festival in rural Maine one Saturday. When we got to the gate we found tickets to be well outside of our meager budget, but there was only one artist we’d wanted to see anyway: Johnny Winter. So we found a low fence we could peer over, and sat, and waited.Continue reading »
Dylan Covers A-Z presents covers of every single Bob Dylan song. View the full series here.
We began our celebrations yesterday, but today, in fact, is the big day. On May 24th, 1941, Bob Dylan was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. Twenty-one years later he released his first album and ever since…well, you know.
We continue our week-long series presenting covers of every single Dylan song with “Father of Night,” one of several Dylan songs that Manfred Mann rescued from obscurity. From there we hit songs by Jeff Buckley, The White Stripes, George Harrison, and, oh, about 54 more. Hours of music, and we’re not even halfway done!Continue reading »
Song of the Day posts one cool cover every morning. Catch up on past installments here.
Music blogs and magazines frequently post lists of underrated guitarists. Some of these lists put Johnny Winter on them, which is silly. Everyone who has heard Winter play recognizes his talent. He’s not underrated; he’s underknown. The Texas bluesman gave one of Woodstock’s finest performances (buy it), but gets little recognition outside of blues circles. Ain’t that a shame.
One of his finest moments is an oft-performed slide guitar explosion through Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited.” Live it can go on for up to fifteen minutes, but we’ve got a nine-minute version (gotta fit on YouTube) from 1984’s Roskilde Festival below. The anorexic (not really) albino (really) axeman plays slide like you’ve never heard, the whole time looking like he’s hardly trying. He’s scary skinny from years of heroin addiction, but his playing has all the muscle you need. Continue reading »
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.
Tom Hanway – Cross Road Blues
First up we have a nice banjo duet acquired from our friends over at Cover Lay Down. Hanway’s clearly not a real big Cream fan. [Buy]
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]
The Gun Club – Preachin’ Blues
The Gun Club actually changed the name here to “Preaching the Blues.” Oh, and they made it a wee bit louder. [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]
Led Zeppelin – Traveling Riverside Blues
The Zep can come off a little pompous on some of their Lord of the Rings-aping originals, but there is no disputing their blues-rock prowess. [Buy]
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]
Plenty has already been said about Highway 61 Revisited. Rolling Stone named the album the fourth best of all time, while Mojo was a little more stingy, giving it fifth. The leadoff track is frequently given the purely objective label the “Best Song Ever,” though some would argue for the closer. It’s an album whose songs cannot be bettered, so I went looking for versions that didn’t try, artists not trying to improve the songs but letting the songs improve them. And where better to witness acts playing around with these classic tracks than straight from the stage. So this set of covers has a special hitch: they’re all live, many unreleased.
Jimi Hendrix – Like a Rolling Stone Bruce Springsteen has described the opening to this tune as the “snare shot that sounded like somebody had kicked open the door to your mind.” Hendrix continues, explaining “It made me feel that I wasn’t the only one who’d ever felt so low.” It’s a song that resonates with many, so perfect in the original in lends itself to lame copycat cover versions. Hendrix hinted at the glory that would be his “All Along the Watchtower” in this live take from the legendary Monterey Festival (this performance presumably coming before he lit his guitar on fire). In Jimi’s voice it sounds like both diss and come-on, seductive in a way that belies that snarl. [Buy]
The Walkabouts – Tombstone Blues Richie Havens country soul version was a highlight of I’m Not There (watch it here), but the Walkabouts go all cowboy country on this take, sneering and sashaying and the drums trample along. Then guitar solo’s a little low in the mix, but the outlaw rhythm is enjoyable enough you’ll forgive the sound guy. [Buy]
Levon Helm Band – It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry I’ve never heard a compelling explanation for what the hell this title means, but Levon rocks so hard it doesn’t matter. Figures that one of Bob’s first drummer from The Hawks (later The Band) should take on this one last year, with full horn section and New Orleans boppin’ piano. [Buy]
Chuck Prophet – From a Buick 6 “All right Mr. Soundman, faders up.” A drum machine is all the background Prophet needs for his drawled baritone and funky blues guitar. He sings that his woman walks like Bo Diddley, but it sounds like Chuck’s mastered that strut himself. [Buy]
Elliott Smith – Ballad of a Thin Man The original’s got one of the best organ parts of all time, so what does Smith do? Gets rid of it completely. It’s more of a slow-grunge sound, Smith smoothly running through the lyrics like they’re second-nature. His understated delivery emphasizes the tumbling cascade of images, perhaps lost on the perpetually screaming crowd. [Buy]
Mojave 3 – Queen Jane Approximately The addition of a female voice adds a sensitivity to the pleading-boy aesthetic. Accompanied by softly tinkling piano, it evokes a pastoral feel for an actual queen. [Buy]
Johnny Winter – Highway 61 Revisited Take your favorite guitar performance of all time. Now imagine how you would feel if it was bumped down to number two. Once you’ve mentally prepared yourself for that possibility, come back and listen to this. [Buy]
Neil Young – Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues Bob described his experience at his high-profile 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration as like attending your own funeral. Hell of a funeral if Uncle Neil makes the scene though, stomping his way through a characteristically ragged performance backed by Booker T. and the MG’s. Neil just soloed all over Booker’s recent Potato Hole incidentally, so you should check that cover-fest out too. [Buy]
The Grateful Dead – Desolation Row Though “Desolation Row” is one of Bob’s most well-known songs, artists seem to think it too sacred to even try (or maybe they can’t learn all the words). Ignoring of My Chemical Romance’s embarrassing take from a few months back (youtube if you dare), the Dead’s version is the one to keep, bumping along pleasantly in this take from 1990 released on their Dylan covers comp Postcards of the Hanging. [Buy]