Jul 302021
best cover songs july
Alex Cameron ft. Roan Yellowthorn – Islands in the Stream (Kenny Rogers / Dolly Parton cover)

For a new single, Australian singer Alex Cameron, who has worked with everyone from The Killers to Foxygen, decided to take on two Kenny Rogers tunes written by Barry Gibb. One, “Midsummer Nights,” is comparatively obscure. The other – the one above – is not. Playing the Dolly Parton role to Alex’s Kenny is Roan Yellowthorn aka Jackie McLean, daughter of “American Pie” singer Don McLean.

Annie – Just Like Honey (Jesus and Mary Chain cover)

Norwegian pop musician Annie doesn’t release much music – 2020 saw her first album in 11 years – but she’s got a new EP out in September, Neon Nights. It features some originals and covers. One is the Dirty Dancing song “She’s Like The Wind.” Another is this discofied, but still shoegazy in a more electronic way, take on the Jesus and Mary Chain’s most often-covered song.

Car Seat Headrest – Running Up The Hill (Kate Bush cover)

On surprise covers EP MADLO: Influences, Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo sticks relatively close to the originals. The Who’s “Substitute” gets a little fuzzier and Nine Inch Nails’ “March of the Picks” a little more punk, but they’re differences of degrees. “Running Up The Hill” veers further away though, in large part because Will’s voice sounds nothing like Kate Bush’s. He emotes the hell out of it, giving an indie-rock twist while still keeping the song’s propulsive momentum. Bonus points for the Nile Rodgers-esque guitar flourishes, bringing in hints of “Let’s Dance.”

Chloe – Feeling Good (Nina Simone cover)

Chloe, of Beyoncé collaborators Chloe x Halley, covered “Feeling Good” for the new EP Liberated / Music For the Movement Vol. 3. In her Good Morning America performance, she combines some old school Whitney-esque belting with a surprisingly original electro-funk backing track. One part Nina, one part Muse.

Jason Isbell, Sam Fender, St. Vincent – Sad But True (Metallica covers)

Metallica found 53 different artists to cover the 12 songs on their mammoth self-titled 1991 album, so no surprise, there’s a lot of overlap in songs. On the three “Sad But True” covers released so far, though, the artists take it in very different directions. Jason Isbell went heavy country-rock, with his bassist using an old Jason Newsted bass to boot. Sam Fender delivered orchestral piano-ballad grandeur. And St. Vincent brought the industrial funk, like Nine Inch Nails mixed with Bowie.

Jim James – Seasons (Steve Miller Band cover)

Beloved indie record label Secretly Canadian has been celebrating its 25th anniversary with a series of covers. One of the latest, alongside Madison McFerren’s terrific Here We Go Magic cover below, comes from My Morning Jacket. He said, about the label’s founder, “Chris Swanson and I started out in the music world around the same time and I have always appreciated his friendship and support. It’s been amazing to watch all of the wonderful music Secretly has helped bring into this world…so when he asked me to cover one of his favorite songs from childhood in honor of Secretly’s big 25th I was excited to do so, and even more excited once I got to know and love the song, which I had never heard before…but is now one of my all time faves too.”

Kurt Vile – Run Run Run (The Velvet Underground cover)

The late, great Hal Willner basically invented the tribute album (plug: I interviewed him shortly before his death for my book on the subject). We’d thought last year’s killer T. Rex set might be his final word on the subject, but a Velvet Underground & Nico tribute he’d been overseeing comes out September 24. The first peek comes from Kurt Vile. There’s a shorter version on YouTube, and the longer one embedded above. Vile said:

I literally covered “Run Run Run” when I was a kid. In my late teens with my band at the time. So it was pretty cosmic, let’s say. There is a direct connection to certain indie bands and beyond with the Velvets. That’s why the Velvets are a classic. You know it can have doo-wop in there and things like that, but it can also have this jagged noisy thing, and it immediately let me feel like I could do anything. The possibilities are endless. You’re completely free. Unapologetic and effortless.

Marty Stuart – Fault Lines (Tom Petty cover)

When Tom Petty died, we loved Marty Stuart’s knockout cover of “Running Down a Dream.” A few years later, Marty’s dug deeper in the Petty catalog – much deeper – tackling a song from Petty’s 2014 album Hypnotic Eye. He wrote at length about deciding to cover this song.

I’ve never made any bones about it. I think Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were the greatest rock & roll band that the United States of America has ever produced. They were modern-day gladiators in every sense of the word. In 2014, the Fabulous Superlatives and I toured across Canada. On a day off from the spotlight, I paid a visit to a record store in some suburban shopping center in a town along the way. The store was featuring Tom and the Heartbreakers’ project, Hypnotic Eye, as one of their new and noteworthy profiles. I bought it, took it back to the tour bus, and gave it a listen. When the song “Fault Lines” came charging out of the speakers, I stood up, turned the volume up way too loud, and played the song three times back-to-back. I immediately called Tom, got his voicemail, and left him a message. Determined to talk to somebody in the Heartbreakers’ camp, I then dialed Mike Campbell. I got him on the line and proceeded to throw roses, and go on about the song. His guitar playing, the band, the writing, the production on the album, Tom’s singing, and on and on. When I finally took a breath and shut up, Campbell, or “Cammell,” as Johnny Cash called him, said, “So you like it?” We laughed it off and kept on rolling.

Six years later, on the evening before I recorded “Fault Lines,” I called Mike once again. This time, to ask him about a particular chord he’d played when they’d recorded the song. He gave me a quick guitar lesson over the phone. When we hung up, I felt that I was ready to tackle “Fault Lines”. The following day, as I was driving to the session, I decided to try “Fault Lines” as a mandolin piece. Without a clue as to how it would turn out, I stepped up to the microphone and went for it. One take later, here’s Tom and Mike’s “Fault Lines”.

Reid Parsons – Cover Me Up (Jason Isbell cover)

Forget about Morgan Wallen’s cover of Isbell’s best-known song and listen to Reid Parsons’ instead. Stripped back to a couple guitars and not much else, the front-porch-casual backing serves mostly as a showcase for Parsons’ knockout vocals. She deploys her belting judiciously, making a meal of even the quieter lines before unleashing at the perfect moment.

Vetta Borne – Cool (Gwen Stefani cover)

“Cool” was Gwen Stefani’s follow-up single to “Hollaback Girl,” and didn’t have a fraction of that song’s success. But Melbourne R&B singer, songwriter, producer Vetta Borne remembers it, saying the song takes her back to the heartbreak of being a teenager. “I think there’s something so beautiful in that lyric ‘After all that we’ve been through, I know we’re still cool,'” she said in a behind-the-scenes interview. “It’s so simple, but so impactful.”

The Best of the Rest

Adam Rabin – Love Is The Strangest Way (Andy Summers cover)

Andrew Rinehart – More Real (Arthur Russell cover)

Angel Olsen – Gloria (Laura Branigan cover)

Blinker the Star – Holiday (Madonna cover)

Gang of Youths – Asleep in the Back (Elbow cover)

Hallelujah the Hills – Year of the Glad (Marnie Stern cover)

Inhaler – Your Power (Billie Eilish cover)

Lucy Dacus – Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol cover)

Madison McFerrin – Over the Ocean (Here We Go Magic cover)

Margo Price – Help (The Beatles cover)

Natalie Bergman and Beck – You’ve Got A Woman (Lion cover)

Pet Dress – ‘Happy Days’ Theme Song

Sam Huber – Turning Tables (Adele cover)

Spanish Love Songs – Blacking Out The Friction (Death Cab For Cutie cover)

Tedeschi Trucks Band – Bell Bottom Blues (Derek & The Dominoes cover)

Tenacious D – You Never Give Me Your Money / The End (The Beatles cover)

Triumphant Race – I’ll Still Destroy You (The National cover)

YUNGBLUD – Like a Virgin (Madonna cover)

Check out previous months’ best covers lists.

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