A few months back, Nashville’s iconic Ryman Auditorium hosted two star-studded tribute concerts to Bob Dylan to celebrate his 75th birthday. Kesha performing “I Shall Be Released” was the big news-maker as her first high-profile performance during her ongoing legal battle, but many other members of country and Americana royalty also took the stage for an amazing couple nights. The full thing was webcast, but it hasn’t been archived anywhere, so if you missed that you were stuck with grainy YouTube videos – until now. We’ve got every song to stream below (except Kesha, which wasn’t webcast, presumably for legal reasons). For the first time since that night, you can hear pristine recordings of Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Kurt Vile, Emmylou Harris, Butch Walker, Wynonna Judd, Boz Scaggs, Langhorne Slim, John Paul Williams of the Civil Wars, Ann Wilson of Heart, and more covering their favorite Dylan songs, many for the first time ever.
When people look back in 2011 in music a decade from now, one name will come to mind: Adele. In our little world of cover songs, she dominated. Everyone covered Adele this year. It’s not just that we saw more covers of “Rolling in the Deep” than any other song; they beat out second place (probably “Pumped Up Kicks”) by like a factor of five! We generally try to look for larger cover trends in these annual wrap-ups, but it’s hard to remember anything else from this year except the year-long onslaught of Adele covers hitting our mailbox.
There’s only one “Rolling in the Deep” cover in this year’s list though. The rest are all over the place. Some of the artists listed built their covers with lush soundscapes, thick beats, and intricate string work. Others just took guitars or pianos and bowled us over with the emotion in their voices. There may not be much of an overarching “Year in Covers” narrative, but that means there’s a cover or two for everyone. From feel-good takes on rap songs to kill-yourself versions of pop songs, this year’s list features flips, flops, and genre switcheroos of all sorts. A good cover should be informed by the source material but stand on its own, and we’ll be unrolling the 50 finest examples of songs doing just that all week. Start with #50-41 on the next page and check back daily as we count down to the best cover of 2011.
Kurt Vile might still be coasting off the critical acclaim laid upon his recent album Smoke Rings for My Halo, but the man never stops. In the past three years, he’s released four albums and three EPs and now he’s back with a fourth: So Outta Reach. It includes a studio cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Downbound Train” (which we saw him perform live in August). It’s dirty and grimy and features some fierce guitar soloing at the tail end.
This Week on Bandcamp rounds up our favorite covers to hit the site in the past seven days.
Today’s set begins all in the family, ends with some lo-fi indie favorites, and takes an unexpected detour to a folk hip-hop medley in the middle. You know, just another week on Bandcamp.
Bruce Springsteen is sometimes criticized for not enunciating his lyrics well enough to understand them, as (especially in a live setting) he sometimes lets his emotions take over his vocal performances. Despite such criticism, however, young artists like My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon have embraced the singing styles of mumblers like Springsteen and Bob Dylan, opting for melodic wails and drones over intelligible presentations of their lyrics. While these singers have made this technique trendy of late, notorious mumbler Kurt Vile brings it back to its origin with his cover of Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A.-era classic “Downbound Train.”