Our official list of the Best Cover Songs of 2017 comes next week. But first, we’re continuing the tradition we started last year by rounding up some of the songs it most killed us to cut in a grab-bag post. No ranking, no writing, just a bunch of knockout covers.
Many musicians cover Bob Dylan songs, but few pick “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” It’s easy to see why. The song has one chord, very little melody, and a whole lot of dense lyrics (even by Dylan standards). As a result, most of the few covers out there tend to be a slog.
So all credit due to The Lumineers and Andrew Bird, who manage to make it their own on a new cover for Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary. The “Ho Hey” bass drum propels the track forward and Bird’s violin breaks give the tune a slight Middle Eastern feel.
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Bob Dylan’s 1965 Newport Folk Festival concerts is one of the most famous – or infamous – performances of all time, subject to numerous books, documentaries, and debates over why Pete Seeger threatened to cut the power cable with an axe. But the fact is, by the time he stepped on that stage, Dylan had already gone electric, four months prior. The first half of his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home – which turns 52 today – is all electric. And not the sort of light electric augmentation other folk singers were experimenting with either. The first track “Subterranean Homesick Blues” may still be the loudest, hardest track of Dylan’s entire career. He’d already drawn his line in the sand; the folk-music crowd had just chosen to ignore it.
To celebrate this landmark album’s 52nd birthday, we’re giving it the full-album treatment. Our recent tributes to Dylan albums have covered underrated works like 1978’s Street Legal and 1985’s Empire Burlesque, but today we return to the classics. Such classics, in fact, that in addition to our main cover picks we list some honorable-mention bonus covers for each song.
Back in 2012, the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” was utterly and infuriatingly ubiquitous. Instantly catchy – and easily mockable – the song’s shouts and stomps quickly become a cliché as other bands tried to copy their and Mumford and Sons’ hit-making acoustic formula. Much like you can’t really blame Pearl Jam for Bush though, the Lumineers and Mumfords got more flack than they deserved for kickstarting that banjo-and-suspenders wave. And on a wonderful new cover, Austin’s Chase Gassaway redeems one of the songs that began it all.
His slow, contemplative version of “Ho Hey” doesn’t have a stomp in sight. Backed by little more than some shimmery guitar plucking and a female duet partner, his “Ho Hey” would be a lot easier to croon along to than holler. It’s the first taste of his upcoming covers album A Fly Can’t Bird and it shows he’s got a true talent for revitalizing even a song we weren’t sure we ever wanted to hear again.
Fleetwood Mac recently wrapped up the US leg of their latest reunion and are currently touring in Europe, which has apparently fueled some covers creativity. Last week we heard UK singer Elsie’s somber take on Lindsey Buckingham’s sour ode to Stevie Nicks with “Go Your Own Way.” This week, the cover song is the same, but The Lumineers tackle it with an approach that is a little more energetic.
Sometimes a cover comes out of nowhere, from an unexpected band or artist who gives the song a unique twist. In many cases, it just does not work. And in many cases it does – really well. Enter The Lumineers, who recently performed a cover of the Talking Heads song “This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)” on Jimmy Fallon. Taking on the Talking Head’s characteristic new wave sound, The Lumineers transform the 80’s song into a sweet sounding tune fit for today’s folk rock fans. Using their now-ubiquitous “ho hey” singing style, The Lumineers give David Byrne’s staccato vocals a new twist, particularly on the “hi yo” that David Byrne sings throughout the song.