Jan 202020
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Old Man covers

The tale of Neil Young’s rustic and glorious “Old Man” is a pretty well-trodden one at this point, as he’s told it prior to performing the song at many, many a live show. To review: The song was inspired by conversations between Young and Louis Avila, the elderly foreman at Young’s beloved homestead, Broken Arrow Ranch (christened as such by Young). Young’s usual line regarding Avila is that “he came with the place when I bought it” in 1971. Upon meeting Young for the first time, Avila was gleefully flabbergasted at how someone so young could afford to buy such a huge piece of land. Young, inspired by his conversations with Avila, soon penned “Old Man,” musing on his own high life at the time as well as the overarching human need to be loved no matter what your physical situation, old or young, rich or poor.

The song ultimately appeared on 1972’s Harvest album and features James Taylor delicately plucking out the most memorable 6-string banjo solo in the history of pop music, as well as the legendary Linda Ronstadt on backing vocals. After almost 50 years, it’s still as wistfully perfect as the day it was born, a rousing singalong that still requires you to have a crying towel at hand.
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May 032019
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

joni mitchell covers

Joni Mitchell is 75 and won’t be with us forever. She suffered an aneurysm in 2015, and she’s coping with the little-understood Morgellons disease. She has difficulty walking, and has not spoken publicly in years. But if her place on earth is tenuous, her place in the heavens is secure; millions of people already look up to her every day.

Joni Mitchell’s songs are famous for being intensely personal, a deep expression of her self that people nevertheless relate to. Those who aspire to her voice become near-slavish devotees. There’s a great New Yorker piece about a small show of Joni’s that a drunken Chrissie Hynde gets overly caught up in (“That’s a REAL singer up there!”), and Hynde’s not alone. Mitchell isn’t just a real singer, though. She’s a real songwriter, a real painter, a real guitarist, a real follower of her muse – a real artist, one of the realest of the past hundred years. That authenticity is what continues to bring people into her circle on a daily basis.

In an excellent essay for NPR, Ann Powers wrote: “Like her prime compatriots Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and her favorite protégé Prince, no one can adequately echo her; even great singers, taking on her songbook, admit they can only hope to achieve proximity.” Indeed, a Joni Mitchell cover is never just a tribute – it’s an assertion, an artist coming forth to pick up a gauntlet she lay down decades ago.

We found 30 covers that show the artists doing an especially good job at matching their talents to Joni’s, creating new works of art that, no matter how novel or innovative they may be, never set out to eradicate the original artist’s signature. May her art continue to open eyes, whether through her own performances or those of others, for centuries to come.

Oct 282011
 

Little Black Dress is a dreamy, shoegazey duo from Dallas. The Little Black Dress, on the other hand, is an entirely pop-rock quintet from Toronto. Needless to say, this made researching which one of them covered the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby” a little confusing. It was the first, article-less Little Black Dress, though, and they did a bang-up job. Continue reading »

Jul 012011
 

Anyone annoyed with Rolling Stone’s decades-long cover decline might take heart in their latest contest, in which eight obscure bands compete to land a spot on the front of an August issue. Only two artists remain – the Sheepdogs and Lelia Broussard – and readers vote for the winner.

For their last push, both bands covered a classic songwriter with multiple appearances on the Rolling Stone cover. The Sheepdogs took on Neil Young, giving a pleasant country-rock swing on Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Ohio.” It’s not particularly novel, but they perform it well. Lelia Broussard’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” on the other hand, branches far afield of the original ‘80s pop sound. Sure, it’s the same approach that Tegan and Sara and Amy McDonald previously used with the cover, but Broussard’s percussive strumming adds a slightly harder undertone than those. Continue reading »