Mar 072014

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Dave Edmunds plays rock and roll in a particular style. It’s the version of rock and roll that existed in the late ’50s and early ’60s. And he’s been very true to it. But don’t be too quick to label him “retro” – he just continues to mine a vein of rock and roll that most musicians abandoned throughout the last third of the century. Those few others who have stuck with that early rock and roll blueprint (Brinsley Schwarz, Flamin’ Groovies, Ducks Deluxe) have probably worked with Edmunds. His sound is consistent, and being a good singer, guitarist and producer, that’s a fine thing to be. But he doesn’t discriminate when picking covers – he’s as likely to do something classic as he is something contemporary.

When looking at a career that is full of covers, it can be tough to figure out which ones best represent the artist. Many of Edmunds’ early singles are very precise covers of classic R&B. Maybe too precise. But once he shed a bit of his perfectionist tendencies (and started working with Nick Lowe), he provided the covers room to breathe and made many an old song into something fresh.

Dave Edmunds – Blue Monday (Fats Domino cover)

A bit of guitar to replace a piano can really change the attitude of a song. Fats Domino’s original version of “Blue Monday” was both playful and regretful, most of the emotion coming from what was probably a very fun weekend. This new version sounds less wistful about times past and more annoyed with times ahead. Who can’t relate to that?

Dave Edmunds – Bad is Bad (Huey Lewis cover)

Some of the blue-eyed soul from Huey Lewis’s version has been removed. Some of the “coolness” has been removed as well. This version is anxious in a way Huey Lewis has probably never been. But the musicianship is tight and everything chugs along purposively, if not as smoothly as the original.

Dave Edmunds – Hey Good Lookin’ (Hank Williams cover)

This is fairly true to the original by Hank Williams, but what it lacks in originality it makes up for in crispness. The guitar picking in a classic country song like this one benefits from a clean and careful recording to show off the musicianship behind the catchy lines. A fun little workout on guitar.

Dave Edmunds – Almost Saturday Night (John Fogerty cover)

This recording came not very long after John Fogerty released his first solo album, with “Almost Saturday Night” as the lead single. You can hear Fogerty still embedded in this song, but it’s fun to listen to Edmunds treating a contemporary song with the same reverence that he does a Fats Domino song.

Dave Edmunds – Me and the Boys (NRBQ cover)

While NRBQ was more than capable of rocking out, Dave Edmunds allows a bit of muscle and looseness into his cover of “Me and the Boys” that the NRBQ original lacks. With the variety of NRBQ songs to choose from, he picks well, this one falling squarely in the pub rock world that he often inhabits.

Dave Edmunds – Never Take the Place of You (NRBQ cover)

“Never Take the Place of You” is a beautiful song written by NRBQ’s Al Anderson, from 1980’s Tiddlywinks album. Edmunds records a wonderfully affecting version, his perfection not getting in the way of emotion. I think we could do well with an all-NRBQ album by Mr. Edmunds.

There’s plenty more great Dave Edmunds (covers and originals both) to be found on iTunes and Amazon.

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  6 Responses to “In the Spotlight: Dave Edmunds”

Comments (6)
  1. Great post.keep ’em comin’! Little Sister? Everly Bros.? where is Dave these days?

  2. Yeah, I’d add in a vote for the entire “Nick and Dave sing the Everly Brothers” disc.

    I’ve long noted that, of the mythic Lowe/Edmunds duology that I have in my mind, Nick performed his own songs, while Edmunds had songs written for him or did covers. (And Nick, in writing his own material, let his personal acidic wit come through.)

    Also take a look at Dave’s album “Riff Raff” for a good collection of covers – his “Something About You” is, IMHO, not to be missed.

  3. These are great. His versions of Elvis Costello’s “Girls Talk” and Juice Newton’s “Queen of Hearts” are fantastic as well.

  4. Just to clarify, Edmunds was the first to do QOH, 1979, Newton 1981
    I agree with Something about you, great cover

  5. Actually, there’s some room for argument on calling Bad is Bad a cover. While it was indeed written by Huey Lewis, Dave Edmunds was the first to record it and perform it widely on stage, in 1979. Huey Lewis and the News’ version wasn’t recorded nor performed widely (and when I say “widely”, I include the video) until after the “Sports” album in 1983.

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