Ray Padgett

Ray Padgett founded the blog Cover Me in 2007 and has run it ever since, growing it into the largest blog devoted to cover songs on the web. His music writing has appeared in the New Yorker, SPIN, MTV, Vice, Mojo, and more and he’s been interviewed as an expert on cover songs by NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and SiriusXM. He lives in Burlington, Vermont and also works as a publicist for Shore Fire Media. His book Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time is out now. His 33 1/3 book on tribute albums and Leonard Cohen is out September 3, 2020. Find more info on him and the books here.

Jan 272023
 
bob dylan the water is wide

There are 60 tracks on Fragments – Time Out of Mind Sessions (1996-1997), the latest installment in Bob Dylan’s ongoing Bootleg Series. Dylan himself wrote 59 of them himself. One, however, is an unexpected cover.

“The Water Is Wide” is a traditional American folk song that dates back to the early 1800s. The waters gets a bit murky at that point, but the song, alternately known as “Waly, Waly,” was likely adapted from a Scottish or Irish ballad dating back a couple centuries further.

Dylan himself has been singing “The Water Is Wide” for decades. He first performed it as a duet with Joan Baez, who might well have introduced him to it, on the Rolling Thunder Revue. It was a highlight of their duo sets together. The next year, he sang it at a session for Eric Clapton’s album No Reason To Cry. It returned again in the late ’80s and early ’90s, where he performed an acoustic version in his own shows. Somewhat surprisingly, it doesn’t appear he ever attempted it for the two folk-covers albums he recorded in the mid’-90s, Good As I Been to You or World Gone Wrong.

Now we learn that a few years later, he actually tried it in the studio for a different album. He delivers “The Water Is Wide” beautifully in 1996, at one of the earliest sessions for Time Out of Mind. It’s unclear whether it was actually being considered for the album, or was just a warm-up with the band, but either way it’s clearly a polished arrangement and a wonderfully committed vocal from Bob. (Update: A newspaper report at the time indicates it may have been recorded for a Pete Seeger tribute album, but Bob was unhappy with his performance and pulled it).

Listen to it below, along with versions from Rolling Thunder (with Baez) in ’75, the Clapton session in ’76, and 1989 to compare.

PS. At my live-Dylan newsletter, I wrote an exhaustive guide to the concert recordings on Fragments if you’re into deep-dive Dylan nerdery.

Jan 242023
 
willie nelson busted

On March 3rd, Willie Nelson will release his first album in a full ten months! Believe it or not, that’s a fairly long gap for him – the album before that came only five months prior. At a quick scan of his insane discography, it looks like there has not been a year without a new Willie Nelson album since 1992 – and that’s the only year he took off since the ’60s. Continue reading »

Jan 052023
 
Trey Anastasio and Jack Antonoff

Back in 2011, I attended a couple shows by The National at the Beacon Theatre in New York. The first night, I remember being surprised to see Trey Anastasio of Phish in the audience. It seemed mildly shocking to see one of the coolest bands in the world collide with one of the least cool (if still massively popular). The second night, Trey even sat in with them on a bunch of songs! Within a few years, The National helped curate the Day of the Dead indie-rock Grateful Dead tribute album, and since then “indie-jam” has become a buzzword. The indie and jamband worlds don’t seem nearly as far apart as they did in 2011. Continue reading »

Dec 062022
 
songbird covers

After Christine McVie’s passing last week (here’s our covers tribute), many artists on tour began working her songs into their setlist. And though there have been a fair share of “Don’t Stop”s and “Little Lies”, one song has become the clear, cathartic favorite: “Songbird.” Here are four of the most prominent (a fifth, LCD Soundsystem’s, I can’t find any recording of). Continue reading »

Nov 302022
 
best cover songs of november 2022
Bob Dylan – I Can’t Seem to Say Goodbye (Jerry Lee Lewis cover)

Bob Dylan doesn’t change his setlists much anymore. In fact, on his recent UK and European tour, he played the exact same setlist every single night…except one. The day it was announced Jerry Lee Lewis passed away, Dylan returned to the stage after his usual finale “Every Grain of Sand.” As anyone who’s read his new book knows, Bob knows his music history. So he skipped the obvious picks and tackled the quite obscure Sun Records-era outtake “I Can’t Seem to Say Goodbye.” Continue reading »

Nov 102022
 
loretta lynn tribute

Last weekend, CMT broadcast “A Celebration of the Life and Music of Loretta Lynn” at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House. A host of country music royalty turned up to play her songs, from veteran industries stars like George Strait and Tanya Tucker to newer outlaws like The Highwomen and Margo Price. Jack White sang “Van Lear Rose,” off the album of the same name he produced for Lynn in 2004. Keith Urban busted out a banjo-guitar for “You’re Lookin’ at Country,” Lynn’s 1971 hit. Strait tackled early chart-topper “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).” Her tracks pushing at the conservative country establishment got airings too: Price performed the pioneering birth control song “The Pill” – a song the Opry, where this show took place, once tried to ban – and Darius Rucker (of all people) performed the feminist anthem “Fist City.” Continue reading »