We already counted down the 50 Best Cover Songs of 2018 but, inevitably, many of our staff’s personal favorites get left off. So, before we begin scouting for what might become the best cover of 2019, we share the best of the rest, an unranked hodgepodge of worthy covers that only just missed our year-end countdown.
“I’ve got half a mind to leave you, but only half the heart to go.” Those words, first recorded by Ernest Tubb but written by Roger Miller, are bittersweet and funny. The song it came from, “Half a Mind,” shared those traits with many of Miller’s other songs. His songs blend the heartstring-pulling storytelling of country with a wry wit that enhances rather than distracts. Ok, maybe rhyming “purple” with “maple surple” is a little distracting, but it’s a worthwhile distraction.
On King of the Road, an upcoming new tribute album, the personnel runs the gamut from country stars like Brad Paisley to unexpected alt-rock acts like Cake. Country music icon Loretta Lynn’s cover of “Half a Mind” is one of three tracks currently available to stream from the album, which is due out August 31st. Lynn’s strong voice duels with the steel guitar here and really highlights the sadder aspect of the lyrics. At just over two minutes long it’s short and bittersweet – and a winner.
The other two songs available are Dolly Parton and Alison Krauss’s equally sad and gorgeously sung “The Last Word in Lonesome is Me” and Brad Paisley’s super goofy “Dang Me”. If the rest of the album is as strong as these early releases this is going to be a can’t miss tribute.
Back in March, the A.V. Club began their latest Undercover set with Iron & Wine covering George Michael. Today, six months later, they wrap it up. In that time we’ve heard performances from the Mountain Goats, They Might Be Giants, the Hold Steady, and a couple dozen more. The final cover comes from Fruit Bats, who were forced to take Loretta Lynn’s “The Other Woman.”
In a way, every song Best Coast performs is a cover. Not a cover of a specific song or artist, per se, but a cover of a genre left for dead decades ago. Their breezy beach-pop takes homage almost to the point of imitation, refreshing a sound not in vogue since Brian Wilson locked himself in his room.
“Coal Miner’s Daughter” wasn’t just a song to Loretta Lynn; it was the story of her life. Lynn grew up in poverty, married at 13, had four children by 19. For most, it would be a recipe for disaster, but not for Lynn. When her husband Moony (named for the moonshine he ran) gave Lynn a guitar for her 24th birthday, she taught herself to play and began her journey towards country stardom. Loretta Lynn has written hundreds of songs, released over 70 albums and was one of the first women in Nashville to write songs from a woman’s point of view. Lynn was unafraid to be a liberated woman, releasing songs about birth control (“The Pill”), teen sex (“Wings Upon Your Horns”), and the Vietnam War (“Dear Uncle Sam”).