Sep 022015
 

Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).

Today’s question, from Cover Me staffer Jordan Becker: What’s a cover that made a significant, annoying, and/or unforgivable change to the original lyrics?
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Dec 182014
 

Follow all our Best of 2014 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

A few months ago, I read an interesting interview with an artist named Nouela. You probably haven’t heard of her, but you may have heard her music. She’s become a specialist in a weird but growing niche: covers recorded for movie and television trailers. Whether doing a piano “Sound of Silence” to promote a new HBO show or a brooding “Black Hole Sun” to promote Liam Neeson punching people, she’s found a quickly-growing way of getting her covers out there.

It struck me as part of a growing trend we’ve seen. More and more great covers seem to come from unexpected places. Sure, you’ve got still your standby sources, your b-sides, tribute albums, and radio shows. But new avenues for covers have increasingly crept in. This year saw a Sam Smith cover that is only available to hear under Grey’s Anatomy dialog (thankfully he’s recorded a few live versions too) and a whole covers album recorded to plug a Canadian TV show. Brands have fully embraced covers too, most recently My Morning Jacket’s “This Land Is Your Land” recorded for North Face ads, or Charli XCX and Bleachers trading covers for Kia.

We don’t care where they originated when we make our year-end lists, though, and we would up with some of everything. In our top five alone, we’ve got a live radio session, a deluxe-edition bonus track, and a cover hiding in plain sight on one of the most acclaimed country records of the year. You have to keep an eye on more places than ever to spot the best covers these days. Wherever they come from, we’re glad to have ’em.

Click on over to page two to begin our countdown, and thanks for reading.

– Ray Padgett, Editor in Chief
(Illustration by Sarah Parkinson)

Dec 022014
 

In Defense takes a second look at a much-maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

Defense? I never knew Linda Ronstadt was under attack. OK, not true, I’ve known she tends to get many a sneery put-down from “real” musos, dissing both her voice and her choices of material, citing that “real” artists have way more credibility (and way fewer sales.) Beautiful but soulless, they call her and her voice, short on originality and innovation. A famous early putdown was around her being merely a competent backing singer, the irony being that ability potentially defines far greater technique than the relative ease of a solo performance, as those who have sung with her (Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, and legions more) have been more than happy to testify. I guess it stems down to generalizations around any successful artist, particularly if blessed also with photogenicity and famous boyfriends.
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Apr 032013
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Electric, Richard Thompson’s newest album, followed the pattern of all his releases – first-rate material, critical hosannas, sales to his devoted core following, and no long-deserved breakthrough to the masses. Having been through this for four and a half decades now, he’d be forgiven for growing complacent with this level of acceptance; instead, he continues to take chances, and his playing and songwriting continue to stand astride a very tall mountain with very little room for others to join him at the peak. Continue reading »

Sep 142012
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Richard Thompson is an ideal subject for a tribute album. He’s been acknowledged as the most underrated guitarist in rock for so long he’s in danger of losing the title. His songwriting is inspired, both musically and lyrically. If his singing voice is by default the weak leg in the tripod, that only means a band can put their own stamp on it with greater ease. To top it off, his cult audience would guarantee small but significant sales to people who knew music and who would be more open to a wide range of approaches to Thompson’s songs. 1994’s Beat the Retreat: Songs by Richard Thompson is a gathering of some of Thompson’s best work, performed by disparate artists with devoted followers of their own, bringing all their contrasting styles to salute one man – as such, for all its flaws, it has become an archetypal tribute album. Continue reading »

Oct 142011
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Richard Thompson’s solo debut, Henry the Human Fly, began with a song that contained the line, “Don’t expect the words to ring too sweetly on the ear.” This would become his songwriting credo, as he penned lyrics that were incisive, emotive, and not the least bit sentimental, bringing them home with an equally biting guitar. His wife Linda sang with a powerful clarity, her voice full of aching, mischief, mourning, celebration, or whatever else the song might call for. She’s fully entitled to her equal billing. On their debut release as a couple, 1974’s I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight, Richard and Linda Thompson report what they’ve encountered on a very British Desolation Row, in a musical language that could have been written half a millennium ago or the day after tomorrow. Continue reading »