James Taylor’s “Millworker,” written and released in the late ‘70s, has had an enduring and surprisingly varied track record. Zoomed in, the song is a first-person account of a modern industrial worker’s daily routine in western Massachusetts. Zoom out though, and “Millworker” is a far more profound kind of anthem, with some big ideas about modern labor on the whole — its adverse effects on the mind, the body, the soul, the grind: “It’s me and my machine for the rest of the morning/for the rest of the afternoon/and the rest of my life…”
Parker Graye is a singer-songwriter from Nashville by way of British Columbia. She’s released a number of original singles in recent years, part of her self-described mission to “make country music sad again.” Clunky political references aside, Graye’s aims have been funneled towards her latest, and biggest, release from last Friday: a country cover of “Complicated,” the 2002 hit from emo-rock icon (& fellow Sad Canadian) Avril Lavigne.
The late Dr. John released over 30 records in his lifetime, but the legendary pianist still has one more yet to share. Things Happen That Way is the posthumous new album from Dr. John, due out September 23 from Rounder Records. Produced by guitarist Shane Theriot and Dr. John and executive produced by Karla R. Pratt—Dr. John’s daughter—Things Happen That Way features a couple of brand-new Dr. John tunes that reflect on his decades of high-wire living. But the record’s big focus is its handful of cover tunes, taking inspiration from Louisiana Hayride and Dr. John’s favorite country (and country-adjacent) legends. In the thick of the record’s musical gumbo, we’ve got a cover of the Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line,” featuring Aaron Neville and singer-songwriter Katie Pruitt. It’s glorious.
British indie pop duo Summer Camp are saying farewell. Comprised of married musicians Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey, Summer Camp have released three full-length records across nearly a decade and a half of making music together. (As a testament to the duo’s longevity, the last time that the pair were properly featured in our pages here at Cover Me was in 2010, spotlighting their charming holiday compilation cover of The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping.”) To mark their graceful exit, Summer Camp have re-released the very first piece of music that they ever recorded: a cover of The Flamingos’ classic “I Only Have Eyes For You.”
Tributes of all kinds have been pouring in to mark the recent passing of pop icon Olivia Newton-John. One of the biggest full-on cover performances to arrive so far comes from The Chicks, who are currently on tour in the United States. At their stop at The Gorge this past Saturday night, the group performed a heartfelt version of “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” Newton-John’s classic ballad from Grease.
For an act of this scale, it’s refreshing to hear a performance that’s so earnest and off-the-cuff. In her on-stage introduction to the song, Natalie Maines describes how the Chicks’ version of “Hopelessly Devoted” was only just worked up that day at soundcheck, lovingly referring to Newton-John as a “worldwide sweetheart” and a lifelong idol. Keeping the original’s signature pedal steel and big choruses in tact, Maines and the Chicks have no trouble filling out the Grease classic as if it’s their own. Check out the cover below.
Harpist/singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom’s debut record, The Milk-Eyed Mender, has inspired a number of memorable covers. But look ahead through the rest of of Newsom’s work—post-2006, frankly—and notable versions become far harder to come by. Newsom’s move from Milk-Eyed to her sophomore record, Ys, and beyond involved a series of especially massive creative leaps: modest folk songs to epic orchestral suites, and, later, to triple LPs. Newsom’s work has only gotten richer and more fascinating, the lyrics denser and the arrangements knottier — but, at least based on past precedent, she’s also seemingly grown more… uncover-able.
It’s refreshing and impressive, then, to come across a cover of not only a post-Milk-Eyed Mender tune, but a Newsom acolyte who has made their own creative in-roads to her later work. This would be singer-songwriter Rachel Sumner, who, alongside her band Traveling Light, has shared an artful new cover of Joanna Newsom’s “Colleen.”