May 072024
rachel bobbitt

Rachel Bobbitt’s excoriating examinations of pain and the human spirit, using folk and indie rock as her vehicle, have established her name. She has taken herself from Nova Scotia to Toronto to develop her craft. In addition to her material, she has brought us some notable covers, bringing her to our attention. Her latest cover take is on Arthur Russell and his “You Can Make Me Feel Bad.”

Thirty years after his untimely death, Russell has not been forgotten. A new book covers his fascinating life, and there will be a celebratory tribute concert in London later this month. A chaotic genius who inhabited and infused the New York art rock scene, his first instrument was a cello, which he played on an early version of “Psycho Killer.” He had hits during the disco years and continually, restlessly, recorded fragments of music that he could assemble into released music in the studio. Or not, as his latter output was small, as HIV sapped and took his life. He inspired devotion, so dedicated archivists have been panning through that recorded work for nuggets for decades now.

This song came out on a posthumous album twenty years ago. We can never really know if the discordant, messy-but-vibrant released version was what Russell would have put out himself. There is also some controversy about the lyrics, and thus the song’s explicit meaning. Is it a bit of defiance, you can dislike my work but I am happy making it, or a bit of victimhood, even though you don’t love me (and say so) I will put up with it as I am driven to love you?

Bobbitt leans into the latter take. There is no chaos here; there is precise meaning and musicianship. She clearly and poignantly lays out her position for her partner or antagonist. I am not going anywhere, despite your behavior.

Cover Me is now on Patreon! If you love cover songs, we hope you will consider supporting us there with a small monthly subscription. There are a bunch of exclusive perks only for patrons: playlists, newsletters, downloads, discussions, polls - hell, tell us what song you would like to hear covered and we will make it happen. Learn more at Patreon.

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