Dec 172015
 

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

CoverMeBestSongs2015

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)

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Jul 162015
 
watkins_family_hour2

For thirteen years, siblings Sara and Sean Watkins – best known as two-thirds of Nickel Creek – have been hosting a monthly “Watkins Family Hour” concert in L.A. Frequent collaborators include Fiona Apple and the Heartbreakers’ Benmont Tench, and they and more have finally recorded a debut album due out next week. It’s all covers, and the closing track is especially timely with the Grateful Dead just wrapping things up last week: the Dead’s American Beauty classic “Brokedown Palace.” Continue reading »

Jun 222010
 

The amazing thing about this album is that it didn’t come sooner. An indie-Americana tribute to country/folk songwriter John Prine seems so inevitable. He may never have become a household name, but anyone who ever recorded a song with steel guitar or mandolin knows Prine. With bands like My Morning Jacket and the Avett Brothers spearheading an alt-country revival, Prine’s slyly sarcastic songs about love and life are due a second showing.

The artists who appear on Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine comprise a who’s-who of young folk/Americana bands, but these obvious admirers choose some very non-obvious tracks. The usual-suspect songs are largely missing in action. No “Paradise,” no “Sam Stone,” no “Illegal Smile.” The only no-duh selection is “Angel from Montgomery,” one of four songs from Prine’s self-titled debut. The rest span the gamut, dusting off tunes from the ‘80s and ‘90s alongside the canonical ‘70s material.
Continue reading »