There are some genres that are inherently difficult to cover – folk, blues, reggae, so on and so forth. It’s not necessarily that they’re technically any harder than any other genres; quite the opposite, really. These genres are part of a tradition that thrives on covers and predates the very concept of the cover, just like the standards that everyone sang fifty years ago in their attempts to be Frank Sinatra.
The difference, though, is that these genres are firmly rooted in something. An artist can’t just sing and play the songs; they need to act as a conduit between the music and something else. They need to connect the listener to the heart that’s beating underneath the foundations of the genre and within themselves.
The Kills pull this off precisely with their medley of Dawn Penn’s “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)” and Joe Higgs’ “Steppin’ Razor” (popularized by Peter Tosh). The duo strips the tunes of their reggae elements and delivers something new, something that feels like an unintentional kind of roots music. Singer Alison Mosshart wails with a bluesy violence and the scattered, clanging percussion and distorted guitar turn the remaining reggae rhythm into something else entirely. The steadiness of it elicits, all at once, the hammering of railroad nails and the powering forward of some kind of rock-and-roll locomotive. Pun intended, they kill it in the best way possible.
The Kills – Dawn Penn & Peter Tosh Covers Medley