May 192017
 
Cover Me

As we’ve noted already, 2017 marks Cover Me’s tenth birthday. We’ll have some more celebratory posts leading up to the actual date this fall, but I’m thrilled to announce one thing that’s on deck for October: the release of my first book, Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time!

Ever since I started this site, friends and readers have suggested that I should write a book about cover songs (surprisingly, a comprehensive book doesn’t really exist). For years, I resisted. “That’s like saying ‘I’m going to write a book about original songs’,” I’d snarkily reply – i.e., that’s a stupid idea. Cover songs seemed too broad a category. There’s no grand unifying theory of cover songs to fit tidily between two book covers; it’s too big and messy and wonderful a tent for that.

Aretha FranklinAfter years of saying no, I finally came up with the solution. I wouldn’t write a book about cover songs – instead, I would write a book about twenty specific cover songs, and through those twenty covers, a broader narrative would emerge.

The story of covers as traced in Cover Me involves artistic triumphs and music-industry shenanigans. It touches on trends in record-making, music videos, and the internet’s impact on music (did you know the first viral song was a cover?). There are beautiful moments of unlikely artists coming together, and some uglier instances of exploitation and racism. Every major change in the music industry since the advent of rock and roll finds some expression in the world of cover songs. Continue reading »

Sep 152016
 
son-little-by-anthony-saint-james-6229

Reviews of Son Little’s music tend to note all the genres he covers. He’s been compared to Marvin Gaye and to Tom Waits – in the same article. Though he certainly has a soulful voice, there’s a lot more to this former Roots collaborator than the limiting label “neo-soul” might encompass. And his wide tastes is showcased in the songs he’s picked to cover recently, from Drake to Led Zeppelin to, most recently, Bruce Springsteen. Continue reading »

Jul 052016
 

train led zepThe whole reason for a good cover to exist at all is that it takes the original source material, gets to the heart of the song, and extracts the most important elements, which are then refashioned in the image of the cover artist. There must be an element of band or artist doing the covering within the cover itself; otherwise it’s simply a note-for-note recreation of a superior (often iconically so) performance. Furthermore, there’s little in the way of artistry behind strict recreations of popular music. This approach is little more than an impression that ultimately serves little to no purpose aside from existing to remind listeners how much better the original was, is and always will be.

For a band like Train – whose music has served as the backdrop for innumerable cloying “romantic” moments in film, television and perhaps even real life – to take on the decidedly heavier sounds of Led Zeppelin would initially seem like something of a joke. What qualifies the group behind such saccharine megahits like “Drops of Jupiter” and the insufferable “Soul Sister” to cover a band like Led Zeppelin, let alone replicate an entire album? Well, it seems that when you reach the level Train has, you can do pretty much whatever you want and no one will question you.
Continue reading »

May 032016
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

sister sparrow covers

“Our music is loud, fun, and it’s supposed to make you feel good.”

That’s straight from the mouth of Arleigh Kincheloe, the lead singer and Sister Sparrow to the collection of Dirty Birds that backs her up in this amazing rock/soul/funk band. Arleigh and her brother Jackson, who plays the prominently-featured harmonica for the ensemble, came from the Catskills to the band’s base of operations, Brooklyn. They formed in 2008, and by 2010 they had their self-titled debut album available. Since then, they’ve been road warriors, hitting venues and festivals all over the country. They’ve won listeners over the old-fashioned way: putting on the best damn shows they can and bringing to music to every pair of ears they can find.
Continue reading »

Mar 222016
 

81ZvLjrNBoL._SY355_

“Any time I take a cover and wear it on my sleeve, it’s because it had something good to do with my life and still marks a time in my life when I needed that song more than ever.” – Jeff Buckley

You and I is a posthumously released collection of ten songs (eight of which are covers) Jeff Buckley chose as a showcase for Columbia Records in 1993. They have lived in the vaults of Columbia Records for the past twenty-three years. Up until the point of these recordings, Buckley’s career was that of a cover artist, gradually working on his own material, performing often at venues in Lower Manhattan, such as Sin-é. Despite vast interest, Buckley was apprehensive about signing with a record label. Eventually he signed with Columbia and recorded what would be his only studio album, the otherworldly Grace, in 1994. An album David Bowie chose as a desert island album, an album whose release saw Bob Dylan knighting Buckley as  “one of the great song writers of this decade,” and an album that convinced Rolling Stone that Buckley was one of the greatest singers of all time.

Continue reading »

Feb 232016
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

ben-harper

Ben Harper is the kind of artist who’s all too easy to miss. He’s not particularly flashy. He doesn’t make headlines for terrible behavior. In fact, he does the opposite: he’s involved in several charities supporting conservation, scholarship, and feeding the hungry. These are wonderful qualities for a human being and an artist to have, but they don’t necessarily help that artist stay in the public eye. What Harper also does, however, is bring his own brand of American music to fans around the world. During his career, he’s experimented with rock, folk, gospel, blues, country, reggae, and jazz, and proved himself equally adept at them all. He’s consistently delivered quality music for over two decades. It may be easy to miss him, but once discovered, he’s impossible to forget.

Continue reading »