Bria – When You Know Why You’re Happy (Mary Margaret O’Hara’ cover)
Bria’s “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” made our list of the Best Covers of 2022. The track was a sneak peak at her covers EP Cuntry Covers Vol. 2, and the full thing dropped a few weeks ago. It includes a wonderful version of this much more obscure song. Bria explains: “Mary Margaret O’Hara is a creative force and one of my favorite Canadian artists. I have been a huge fan of hers for quite some time and really wanted to try my hand at one of her songs for Vol. 2. She is a real queen of vocal improvisation. It’s a trait of hers that I’ve always admired, so I really wanted to explore that when recording this cover. The video for this track is special to us, a sort of collage of memory; fragmented footage of summer taken over the last two years is dispersed throughout shots of a vast winter scene, filmed while we finished the record up North with our live band.”
Dom Flemons ft. Sam Bush – Guess I’m Doin’ Fine (Bob Dylan cover)
“Guess I’m Doing Fine” is a very deep early-Dylan cut; we explored another cover of it on our Rarely-Covered Dylan Songs series. Former Carolina Chocolate Drop Dom Flemons brings in bluegrass great Sam Bush for this new version. “The song’s powerful lyrics about resilience in the face of insurmountable odds have resonated with me since I first heard it on CD 20 years ago,” Flemons wrote. “After cutting ‘Guess I’m Doing Fine,’ I realized that it would be cool to add a fiddle part to pull out the strains of bluegrass that I found in the song’s structure. I am so fortunate and grateful that my friend Sam Bush was available to add his fiddle to this lively track and bring some of that old-timey flavor to it.”
Easy Star All-Stars – Moonage Daydream (David Bowie cover)
Reggae band Easy Star All-Stars are giants in the cover albums world. You may know their Dub Side of the Moon, Radiodread, or Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band (you can probably figure out what those are covers of). They’ve been fairly quiet since 2012’s Thrillah, but on April 21 they will return with Ziggy Stardub, covering every track off David Bowie’s album of (almost) the same name. Singer Naomi Cowan said, “I found it beautiful that we used the power of reggae music to give new life to these tracks. The character Ziggy Stardust represents freedom and we all know this is part of the mission of reggae — to unite the world through music.”
Elisapie – Uummati Attanarsimat (Blondie cover)
If you don’t think you know a song titled “Uummati Attanarsimat” – you do. It is Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” translated into the Canadian Inuit language of Inuktitut by the singer Elisapie. The video uses archive footage from the Avataq Cultural Institute in Montreal. The words sound little like the original, of course, but neither does the music, stripped down to a folkie sheen with light electronic touches.
Fantastic Cat – Keep Me In Your Heart (Warren Zevon cover)
The Americana quartet of Anthony D’Amato, Don DiLego, Brian Dunne, and Mike Montali have been covering this late-period Warren Zevon tune ever since their first show. They finally recorded it, trading off verses and coming together for moving gang-vocal harmonies on the chorus. Well timed too, as stars from Billy Joel to Linda Ronstadt push for Warren Zevon to finally get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Florence and the Machine – Just a Girl (No Doubt cover)
This was one of, strangely, two high-profile covers of this No Doubt song this month (this other, a live version, came from MisterWives). Florence Welch and co’s was recorded for the new season of Yellowjackets, and features her giant voice over a just-as-giant orchestral backing. The build is something else too. It starts out huge, and only gets huger as it goes.
Jessie Ware – Believe (Cher cover)
Big month for “Believe” covers. We already heard a slow stripped-down one from Manchester Orchestra (also below), but Jessie Ware’s is the exact opposite of stripped-down: She performs it with a full fifty-person orchestra. Horns and flutes and strings and backup singers galore. But the disco drum machine still comes through, as does a brief nod to the original’s iconic early use of AutoTune. If you listen close, you’ll catch a touch of Kylie Minogue’s “Love at First Sight” in there too.
Maisie Peters – Basket Case (Green Day cover)
Maisie Peters loves the ‘90s! When last we heard from her, way back in 2018, she was covering the Friends theme “I’ll Be There for You.” Now she takes the Like a Version stage to put her spin on a Green Day classic. It’s light and poppy and a bit twee. “Basket Case” works well in this framework. The punks-for-life at 924 Gilman Street would be appalled.
The Nude Party – Somebody Tryin’ to Hoodoo Me (Dr. John cover)
North Carolina band The Nude Party have been getting a lot of buzz behind their recent New West Records album Rides On. Twelve of the album’s 13 tunes are originals, but one is an unexpected Dr. John cover. They keep some of the swampy funk, but seamlessly blend it with an indiepop sheen.
Phony Ppl – Don’t Know Why (Norah Jones cover)
The Recording Academy bills this as a Norah Jones cover, but, really, it’s a cover of a cover. The first version was written and released by Jesse Harris three years before Jones made it famous. No doubt, though, Brooklyn R&B group Phony Ppl take their cues from Jones on this version, but add a dose of light funk.
Rufus Wainwright w/ Brandi Carlile – Down In The Willow Garden (Trad.)
“Brandi I see a lot, often with Joni Mitchell,” Wainwright said in a statement. “I chose us a cheery little number – not! The song is so blatantly brutal and masochistic that I had to sing it with a woman. Sadly, we still live in a violent world. The amazing thing about so many folk songs is that, content wise, they sound very contemporary. Think of the gun crime in the States right now.” “Singing with Rufus feels like watching birds swirl around together instinctively in flight,” Carlile added. “It’s anticipated but somehow as natural as can be. His voice is so special to me that I hear it sometimes when he’s not even singing with me. I loved every second of flying around in this music with him.”
The Smith Street Band – Hand In My Pocket (Alanis Morissette cover)
Another Like a Version number, and this one a lot louder than Maisie Peters. The Smith Street Band squall through “Hand In My Pocket” with equal dozes Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine. If, that is, Billy Corgan or Kevin Shields had a thick Aussie accent.
St. Vincent and The Roots – Glory Box (Portishead cover)
To promote her appearance at the Love Rocks charity concert (where she sang some Bowie), St. Vincent took to the Tonight Show stage to croon Portishead backed by house band The Roots. Her guitar is like a Chekov’s gun. You know it’s gonna go off eventually, but you gotta wait. The vocals are the star here, though her brief solo adds some welcome skronk.
Yasmin Williams – Sunflower (Post Malone cover)
At the same event that delivered us Kurt Vile’s killer Feelies cover last month, American primitive virtuoso Yasmin Williams delivers a stunning instrumental picked-and-whacked version of Post Malone and Swae Lee’s giant Spiderman hit. If only I’d had this when I did my feature on the song!