May 312023
best cover songs may 2023
Beck – Hands on the Wheel (Willie Nelson cover)

Willie Nelson’s giant 90th birthday concert in Los Angeles featured a whole host of covers. Some of them featured the man himself. Admittedly, that makes those not really covers, so we’ll feature a couple Willie-less Willie tunes. First up, Beck tackles Willie’s Red Headed Stranger classic “Hands on the Wheel.” (Find another cover of this song in the Best of the Rest list.)

Billy Joel – If You Could Read My Mind & Sundown (Gordon Lightfoot covers)

Many paid tribute when Canadian songwriting great Gordon Lightfoot died. Billy Joel did so twice. First, the piano posted a short snippet playing “If You Could Read My Mind” at home. Then, at his next concert at Madison Square Garden, he debuted a full-band take on another Lightfoot classic, “Sundown.”

The Chicks – Bloody Mary Morning (Willie Nelson cover)

One more highlight of Willie Nelson’s 90th birthday party, here are The Chicks singing, banjoing, and fiddling through his 1974 hit “Bloody Mary Morning.” Years ago, they’d sung the song with the man himself.

Dave McMurray ft. Jamey Johnson – To Lay Me Down (Grateful Dead cover)

Two years ago, jazz saxophone player Dave McMurray released Grateful Deadication, a full-album tribute to…the Allman Brothers (jk). He must have seen our 4.5-star review, because he’s at it again. Grateful Deadication 2 dropped a few days ago. Like the first, it’s largely instrumental, but with a few special guest vocalists – including, on this track, country singer Jamey Johnson. Not an obvious Dead-adjacent voice, but Johnson delivers this ballad beautifully. That the sax part is just as good goes without saying.

Ghost — We Don’t Need Another Hero (Tina Turner cover)

On their latest EP, Ghost cover the late, great Tina Turner’s Mad Max soundtrack hit “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” It starts sounding fairly subdued for Ghost, the bombastic masked pop-metal group who could fit into a Mad Max-type universe. At the chorus, though, it explodes just as you’d hope.

Jack White – Death Wish (Jason Isbell cover)

For no apparent reason than that he felt like it, Jack White recorded a cover of Jason Isbell’s new single and posted it to his Instagram. To quote unlikely commenter Jessica Simpson (really): “Perfection 🙌🏼”

Khemmis – In the Pines (Trad. cover)

And you thought Nirvana’s version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” was heavy… Denver doom-metal trio Khemmis tackles it on their new EP, under its more-often used name “In the Pines.” It starts vaguely in the Nirvana Unplugged vein, haunting and acoustic. For the final minute though, it gets very, very plugged.

Lenny Kravitz – How Long Have You Been Blind (Harry Belafonte cover)

Lenny Kravitz must have burned the midnight oil, turning around this extremely polished Belafonte tribute the day after the icon’s passing. Lenny being Lenny, he played most of the instruments on it too, rocking out hard on guitar…and bass…and cowbell…and organ…and handclaps…etc. The song was first written and recorded by Dakota Sioux musician and political activist Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman, and Belafonte sang it quite a bit in the 1980s.

Lion Babe – Thinkin’ Bout You (Frank Ocean cover)

“’Thinkin Bout You’ is a record that brings us back to a time when we first started to make music together,” New York soul and funk duo LION BABE explain to The Fader. “When it came out, we were just beginning to form LION BABE. As we’ve reached milestones in our lives and careers, it is natural that our artistry is transforming as well. We have a new sound, groove, and sonic pallet while still keeping our roots intact. This record is a taste of our next music chapter.”

Olivia Jean – Orinoco Flow (Enya cover)

We are fully here for any and all hard-rocking Enya covers. Rozwell Kid’s “Only Time” ranked high on our year-end list in 2020. Now Olivia Jean, of Third Man Records band The Black Belles (and, as of last year, Jack White’s wife) included a garage-goth-girl-group “Orinoco Flow” on her new album Raving Ghost. It rules. Who’s gonna tackle Enya’s Lord of the Rings song next?

Shayna Steele – Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac cover)

Singer and Broadway actress Shayna Steele’s new album Gold Dust mostly leans jazz and soul. There’s a cool cover of Radiohead’s “Faust Arp” in that vein that sounds like it comes from a small-combo Blue Note show. But she opens up on a loud-as-hell version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman.” You can see why her voice would reach the Great White Way cheap seats.

Ufomammut – Let Me Drown (Soundgarden cover)

On upcoming Soundgarden tribute album Superunknown Redux, Italian doom-metal band Ufomammut tackle “Let Me Drown,” the opening number on Superunknown. They extend it to a long and loud seven-plus minutes, adding in a statement, “We take it as a big honor to have the chance to pay tribute to those giants and open this album with ‘Let Me Drown,’ a song that sounds perfect in Soundgarden’s hands. We began to play it as it was, but immediately understood that making the piece too similar to the original wasn’t the way. So, slowly, little by little, we deconstructed it. We tried to understand the spirit of the song, and did our best to transform it into our own vision: a thunderous desperate vortex, inspired by both music and lyrics.”

The Best of the Rest

Billie Marten – As It Was (Harry Styles cover)

Denzel Curry ft. Bilal – Didn’t Cha Know (Erykah Badu cover)

Garbage – Cities in Dust (Siouxsie and the Banshees cover)

Khalia x Silly Walks – Flowers (Miley Cyrus cover)

Lillie Mae – Razor Love (Neil Young cover)

Margo Price – Hands on the Wheel (Willie Nelson cover)

Matt Corby – No Scrubs (TLC cover)

Noah Kahan ft. Wesley Schultz – If We Were Vampires (Jason Isbell cover)

Pixie & The Partygrass Boys – Dark Horse (Katy Perry cover)

Rachel Bobbitt – Party Police (Alvvays cover)

Rufus Wainwright ft. Andrew Bird & Chris Stills – Harvest (Neil Young cover)

SOM – Enjoy the Silence (Depeche Mode cover)

Sugar Horse – Head Over Heels (Tears For Fears cover)

Tray Wellington Band — Pursuit of Happiness (Kid Cudi cover)

Check out previous months’ best covers lists.

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