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

Fans of Gram Parsons are generally divided into three camps over 1999′s Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons. The first thinks it’s brilliant, a reverent homage to a great songwriter and a testament to the weight of his country rock influence. The second likes the raw sound of another tribute album better: 1993′s Conmemorativo: A Tribute to Gram Parsons, featuring the likes of Bob Mould and The Mekons. And the third camp feels that the only person that can sing Gram Parsons songs is Parsons himself.

If we took the philosophy of the last opinion to heart, this site wouldn’t even exist. While the so-called purists would deny any version other than the one by the original artist as being legitimate, it certainly would be a dull world if all musicians were content to color within the lines without recognizing that someone else before them drew those lines. While Conmemorativo does contain some gems, there are two reasons why Return of the Grievous Angel is better: great production values, and the guiding hand of Emmylou Harris, who worked so closely with Parsons and who served as executive producer of the compilation. So count us among the members of that first camp. Now let’s meet the man who inspired the album. Continue reading »

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!

Mary Lou Lord is a music lover. For starters, she was busking for eight years before being signed to a label; there are bands in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame whose careers are shorter than that. She cofounded the Boston chapter of Girls Rock Camp, a summer program designed to foster a positive atmosphere for girls to become empowered through music education. She shares songs that are new to her on her Facebook page, and when she talks about Connie Converse, or points out how much Neil Young’s “Pocahontas” sounds like Carole King’s “He’s a Bad Boy,” you can’t help but get caught up in the giddy excitement of her discovery. Continue reading »

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!

The one and only Lucinda Williams turns sixty years old today. She brought together so many threads of the nation’s musical quilt, added one of the great voices, both as a singer and as a songwriter, and ended up becoming queen of Americana. No other country in the world could produce any Lucindas; the U.S. was lucky to produce just one. (It’s next to impossible to just call her Williams; she’s ineffably, invulnerably Lucinda.)
Continue reading »

Though Bob Dylan moved away from his role as a ‘protest singer’ long ago — we saw Another Side by his fourth album — his name will forever be associated with social activism. The international human rights organization Amnesty International rose out of the same turbulent era as Dylan, forming in 1961, the year Dylan recorded his first album. Fitting, then, that in celebration of their 50th birthday, Amnesty would call on artists to contribute their Dylan covers to the massive four disc set Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. Continue reading »

Remember that Amnesty International Dylan tribute album we told you about a few months back? Well we now have have more information on it. It’s called Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. In addition to Bad Religion and Rise Against, it also features covers by My Morning Jacket, Sting, Patti Smith, Dave Matthews Band, Adele, Lucinda Williams, Jack’s Mannequin, and…Ke$ha. Continue reading »

As you might imagine, quite a few Bob Dylan covers come across our desk. So many that I often don’t get to listen to them all. So when I had the opportunity to press play on “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”  by Tom Russell with Lucinda Williams and Calexico, I was surprised to find myself listening over and over. With his catchy tex-mex country sound, Russell is no stranger to covering Dylan. Back in April, when we brought you 33 discs of live Dylan covers, we included his performance of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” as a standout. Continue reading »

The Voice Project formed to support the women of war-ravaged Northern Uganda who use song to spread their message of healing and peace. The Project seeks out artists to create cover chains – one artist covers another who then covers another and so on – with donation and advertising revenue going to these women. In the latest episode, Blake Mills invited The Project into his living room and performed Lucinda Williams’ exuberant “I Just Wanted To See You So Bad” from her 1988 self-titled album. Continue reading »

The Low Anthem first hit the Cover Me radar with their 2008 album Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. Alongside 11 haunting folk originals lay a barnyard rave through “Home I’ll Never Be.” A piece by written by Jack Kerouac and given music decades later by Tom Waits, “Home I’ll Never Be” instantly indicated the cover potential of this Rhode Island quartet. The just-released Smart Flesh continues the pattern, opening with a cavernous take on George Carter’s “Ghost Woman Blues.”

With those two on our radar, we figured they’d probably covered other songs in their brief career. We were right. Below we’ve collected 20 cover songs by the Low Anthem. It’s not quite enough for an official Live Collection, but it’s quite a set nevertheless. They dig into folk music in all its forms, from old-timey tunes like “Two Sisters” to modern folk gems like the David Wax Museum’s “Let Me Rest.” Continue reading »

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