Since the surprise election of Donald Trump last week, musicians have responded in all sorts of ways, from benefit concerts to social media missives. A few have taken to the world of cover songs to express their feelings and frustrations, picking songs with titles like “Drunk On Election Night” or “Time To Move On.” We’ve pulled together a few of the best.
Elvis Costello’s recent Detour run (detour… de tour… get it?) was billed as a solo gig, but for half of the show I caught, he wasn’t up there alone. Flanking him was his opening band, the duo Larkin Poe. For instance, here’s the trio on one of Costello’s classics, “Blame It On Cain”:
You can see why Costello has come to depend on them so much at these “solo” dates; he even turned over lead vocals on an unreleased new song, “Burn the Paper Down to Ash.” Larkin Poe’s opening set was every bit as impressive – the fact that they still had energy left to join Costello after it, even more so. Atlanta sisters Megan and Rebecca Lovell stormed the stage, making a mandolin and steel guitar howl and holler with a blues-rock fever. They’ve earned themselves the tagline “the little sisters of the Allman Brothers,” and for good reason.
It’s been a good year for covers of Tom Petty’s non-Heartbreakers tracks. Back in January we heard Jane Kramer’s great version of a Highway Companion deep cut, and now we have My Goodness covering a better-known song off a better-known album: Wildflower’s lead single “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” The Seattle duo of guitarist/vocalist Joel Schneider and drummer Andy Lum slows the song way down on their upcoming EP Islands, giving it a spooky menace just in time for Halloween.
“We were listening to a lot of Tom Petty on our last US tour, great driving music – so we decided to choose a classic and take it to a dark place,” Lum tells us. “When we started recording in Seattle, our producer Shawn suggested we play the song at double speed and slow the tape down to get this spacey, warped drum sound. It felt insane while we were tracking, but the end result was totally worth it.”
They say nostalgia works in 20-year cycles, and this year the music of 1996 has been in the media a lot. And if you believe the music blogs, it turns out 1996 was a truly groundbreaking year for every possible genre. Over at SPIN: “The 96 Best Alternative Rock Songs Of 1996.” Complex: “Best Rap Songs of 1996.” Junkee: “Ten reasons 1996 was a great year for dance music”. Loudwire: “10 Best Metal Albums of 1996.” Red Bull Music: “1996: Why it was a great year for pop”. Suck it, 1995! (Kidding; similar articles were of course written last year too.)
We’ll be honest: 1996 was not some magical, pioneering year for cover songs. It was also not a terrible year. It was just, you know, another year. There’s no overarching theorem of 1996’s cover songs that wasn’t true in ’95 or ’97. But even so, Cover Me wasn’t around in 1996, so we never made a Best Cover Songs of 1996 list (our first year-end list came in 2009, with the Kings of Convenience’s “It’s My Party” topping it, and you can catch up on all the lists here). So we decided, before the year ends and we take our look at the best covers songs this year, why not take a nostalgic rewind and do 1996 just for fun, twenty years too late.
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).
Today’s question: What’s a favorite live cover song?
North Carolina singer-songwriter Jane Kramer says her new album Carnival of Hopes is about facing down inner demons while still clinging to “that tiny chirping of light in your bones that somehow keeps you tethered to keeping on.” And if that sounds like the sort of perseverance Tom Petty writes about, well that might not be a coincidence. The only cover on the album is a relatively obscure Petty track, “Down South” off his underrated 2006 solo album Highway Companion.