Sorry this post is a couple days late, but hopefully there’s enough here to make up for it. It’s about a diverse a post as I’ve had, with the only theme being artists who are playing Bonnaroo 2008. It’s a great line-up so far, with more to be added, so check it out at bonnaroo.com. First up we’ll do covers of Roo artists.
Patricia O’Callaghan – Better Man (Pearl Jam)
Having an opera-trained soprano doing a grunge song is a shakey proposition, but it works pretty well here as she reins her voice in from unnecessary theatrics. Starts off with some nice piano that I wish it had stayed with the whole time.
Rodrigo y Gabriela – Orion (Metallica)
Why Metallica is headlining Bonnaroo is beyond me, as there are few bands I can stomach less, but at least there a few nice covers of their songs. This one shows the Mexican acoustic guitar duo (who, incidentally, played Roo last year) put their flamenco-metal spin on the Master of Puppets instrumental, transforming it into something that doesn’t make you want to rip your ears out. Well done.
The Automatic – Gold Digger (Kanye West)
I’m a big Kanye fan, but this is one of the worst singles he’s released. It’s much better as an ironic acoustic rock jam with some screeching backing vocals and flute riffs.
Kind of Like Spitting – Title Track (Death Cab for Cutie)
I need to get myself educated about this band before June, as all I have is a few covers they’ve done. From the one cover of a songs I have though, there’s potential.
And now Roo artists covering others, which gives you a better sense of the festival sound this year.
Jack Johnson – Mama, You Been On My Mind / Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie (Bob Dylan)
I really want to hate this laid-back guitar-strumming surfer dude, but the few covers I have by him are all pretty good. He keeps the momentum here in a song perfectly suited to his voice, before doing a rhythmic melodic version of Bob’s one spoken-word poem. The man knows his Dylan, as I’ve never even heard it covered before.
Phil Lesh and Friends – All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
Another Dylan one here, but a band it could be argued does only covers (depending on where you place songs by the Grateful Dead, a band Lesh was in). This has to be one of the most covered songs ever, but Lesh keeps it fresh (har har) here at an ’06 concert. Joan Osbourne has a beautiful gospel intro before some lively jamming and solos worthy of the song.
The Raconteurs – Bang Bang (Cher)
Jack White knows how to do a cover as well as anyone and with a little more exposure this could be the band’s Jolene. In almost ten minutes his wavering vocals interact with pounding instruments and waves of distortion in a live staple. They do it in about five parts, each one building on the last in an passive-aggressive tour de force that chills.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Killing the Blues (Rowland Salley)
These guys do almost exclusively covers, with a laid-back swing feel that suits the duo perfectly. Steel guitar and brushed drums give them space to explore vocally here, with T-Bone Burnett at his best production-wise.
Tegan and Sara – Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen)
You’ve probably heard their cover of Umbrella, but this one’s even better, taking Springsteen’s poppiest song and making it all shoegazer indie.
Willie Nelson – Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper)
Lauper’s inane ramblings trying to deliver a Grammy the other day were pretty pathetic, but she used to be a pretty legit pop star, with some pretty fun songs. I’d think Nelson’s country warbling would be a terrible fit for this song, but the arrangement is perfect and he keeps the twang out his voice in a subdued take that isn’t afraid to mix up the chorus a bit.