Aug 122016

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

After The Gold Rush

Surely After the Gold Rush, this “uniformly dull” record, as Rolling Stone magazine put it at the time, is the peak of Neil Young’s output?

Yet somehow I always seem to forget it, tending to immediately opt for the feistier, zeitgeistier options of Zuma and Ragged Glory, and the civilians always go for the milquier toast of Harvest. But nowhere is there such simple beauty as on this 1970 record, his third solo album after leaving Buffalo Springfield. It captures most of Shakey’s tropes on one disc – his ragged guitar, his playing always suggesting playing in mittens if not boxing gloves, his delicate acoustic whimsy, and the left-field oddness, exemplified here by “Cripple Creek Ferry.” True, volume and feedback are restrained, maybe 8/10 rather than his later 11 (at least), and it’s possible that the record is even the better for that.

So when I do remember After the Gold Rush, when I come back to it, it astonishes. I can play it side to side (yes, of course vinyl) and be instantly transported to a teenage me, dreaming of a future I couldn’t ever quite picture (and indeed haven’t quite yet), all hopes and fears, intermingled with tears and joy.
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Aug 082016

This year marks the 40th anniversary of The Band’s legendary The Last Waltz final concert and to celebrate, NYC’s Lincoln Center hosted an all-star tribute concert Saturday night. Held down by Levon Helm’s longstanding Midnight Ramble Band, special guests included Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, and even Dr. John, reprising the song he sang at the original Last Waltz. Continue reading »

Jun 102016

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!

golden smog

Back in the late 1980s, as the alt-country/No Depression sound began to spread, a group of bands centered in the Minneapolis area often played in the same venues. Sometimes members of these bands would do cover shows for fun. Although even the members of the band remember the band’s fittingly murky origins differently, ultimately, some of these friends began to perform as “Golden Smog” (originally a Flintstones reference), mostly playing covers. The core membership coalesced as Gary Louris and Marc Perlman of the Jayhawks on bass, Dan Murphy and Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum, Kraig Johnson of Run Westy Run (and later the Jayhawks) and Chris Mars of the Replacements (although the drum chair in the band has a near Spinal Tap-level rotating door), often augmented by guest musicians and singers. It was like seeing an incredibly talented bar band.
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Dec 172015

Follow all our Best of 2015 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.


I didn’t realize it until I began laying out our post, but this year’s Best Cover Songs list shares quite a few artists with last year’s. And some that showed up here the year before that. Jack White’s on his fourth appearance. And Jason Isbell and Hot Chip not only both reappear from last year, but have moved up in the rankings.

Though we’re always on the lookout for the new (and to be sure, there are plenty of first-timers here too), the number of repeat honorees illustrates how covering a song is a skill just like any other. The relative few artists who have mastered it can probably deliver worthy covers again and again.

How a great cover happens is something I’ve been thinking a lot about this year as I’ve been writing a series of articles diving deep into the creation of iconic cover songs through history (I posted two of them online, and the rest are being turned into a book). In every case the artist had just the right amount of reverence for the original song: honoring its intention without simply aping it. It’s a fine line, and one even otherwise able musicians can’t always walk. Plenty of iconic people don’t make good cover artists (I’d nominate U2 as an example: some revelatory covers of the band, but not a lot by them). Given the skill involved, perhaps it’s no surprise that someone who can do a good cover once can do it again.

So, to longtime readers, you will see some familiar names below. But you’ll also see a lot of new names, and they’re names you should remember. If the past is any guide, you may well see them again next year, and the year after that.

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

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


Apr 302015

In 2008, Blitzen Trapper‘s album Furr generated a lot of buzz, as well as a standout track in the title song. Flash forward a few albums to 2013’s VII, and the experimental indie-folk group out of Portland sound as if they’ve left some of the wilder stuff behind and headed solidly into a southern-rock/jam band inspired direction. Last year their live cover of Bob Dylan’s “Man in Me” with Dawes stuck to this blueprint, and now they continue in the same vein with their most recent cover of Neil Young. Continue reading »

Feb 162015

Sweet Judy “Blue Eyes” Collins is still majestic at 75.  Judy’s new release, Both Sides Now- The Very Best Of includes 28 beautiful original songs and interpretations of legendary songs. Her first single, “Helpless”, is a Neil Young cover, and a duet with Rachael Sage. Judy has called Neil Young a master songwriter. She has been connected to Neil and the rest of Crosby, Stills, and Nash for many years.  It’s her on-again off-again romance with Stephen Stills that inspired Stills to pen the lyrics “change my life, make it right, be my lady…” on “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”.  This was a failed attempt to get Judy back in the late ’60s. But the song was a hit in 1969 and made Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of all Time. You can hear a Collins-Stills duet on the song “Last Thing on My Mind” (2010) on Both Sides Now.

Judy’s been an inspiration to musicians and politicians alike. Bill and Hillary Clinton named their daughter Chelsea after Judy’s rendition of Joni Mitchell’s Chelsea Hotel.

Judy has had her share of struggles; depression, alcoholism, bulimia, and the suicide of her son to name a few battles. She’s triumphed beautifully and is not at all helpless like the title of her first single.  Judy’s graceful collaboration with a very young, virtually unknown artist, Rachael Sage, on her first duet is a testament to her humble and true devotion to music.


To read more about Judy, click here.