Curtis Zimmermann

Curtis Zimmermann works as an advertising sales executive for an academic publisher in Philadelphia. He’s been a music critic, news reporter, financial fraud investigator and spent many years in corporate sales, all the while maintaining a healthy obsession with music history. He first became intrigued with genre-bending covers in college when he stumbled across a used copy of Ray Charles’ box set “The Complete Country & Western Recordings 1959 - 1986.”

Oct 302023
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Back in 2021, Cover Me compiled a list of the top 30 Willie Nelson covers of all time. A comprehensive list, it included covers of many of Nelson’s trademark songs such as “Crazy” and “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Even then we noted we were leaving out a key component of the story: the number of covers Nelson has recorded himself.

As of this writing, Secondhandsongs.com lists a whopping 991 covers. Granted it counts instances where he re-recorded new versions of his old cover songs with other people. For example: it lists every single duet of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Nelson’s catalog of covers is both extensive and exceptional. One could easily place many of his covers, such as “Always On My Mind,” “Stardust,” or “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” among the best of all time.

In 2023, Nelson has hit two major milestones – he turned 90 in April. and in November he’ll be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – so we decided to revisit his covers collection.

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Feb 102023
 
molly tuttle good 4 u

Whenever the Grammy Awards roll around, I find myself paying far more attention to the “down-ticket” categories than the main ones. While the endless debates about the artistic merits of Harry Styles versus Beyoncé light up Twitter, a Grammy win for one of the lesser-known artists can do wonders for their career. This year I was especially excited for Molly Tuttle winning the award for Best Bluegrass Album (she was also nominated for Best New Artist). Tuttle is one of the leading bluegrass guitar wizards of our age. Her album, Crooked Tree, featured a solid fusion of country, folk and bluegrass. The deluxe edition included an exceptional cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Dire Wolf.” Continue reading »

Jan 302023
 
tragedy i'm so excited

As a preteen in the late ‘80s, I had a very detailed Saturday T.V. watching routine. At 11:30 p.m., I would tune into Saturday Night Live. Then just around midnight I would switch over to MTV for three hours of the metal show Headbangers Ball. (I was admittedly a bit of a night owl back then.)

Beyond all of the hair and the epic videos, I remember finding the commercials a bit baffling, especially the frequent ads for disco compilations. I felt like this was just bad ad placement. Time has taught me otherwise. There is room in one’s heart for both metal and disco. In fact, just a few short years later, in 1992, I bought a copy of the Bee Gees’ Greatest, a compilation from the band’s disco era.

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Jan 052023
 
byrne cyrus let's dance

One of the biggest stories in cover song news this week was Miley Cyrus teaming up with David Byrne to perform a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” on Cyrus’ New Year’s Eve special. Coincidently, I actually spent most of Dec. 31 thinking about Byrne and the Talking Heads’ musical legacy. Continue reading »

Jul 062022
 
young costello

Whether formed in the first, second or third wave, ska bands throughout the ages have been renowned for their ability to perform cross-genre covers. In the ‘90s, I remember it being a badge of honor for ska bands to take an ‘80s pop hit and shove it into the punk ska mold.

Building on this tradition in 2022 is Young Costello. The Texas-based, seven-piece ska band recently released a cover of Eddie Murphy’s hit “Party All the Time.” The track was included on a multi-band compilation by Ska Punk International entitled Songs For Moms Vol. 2, from which we’ve also featured unlikely takes on Bob Dylan and Imagine Dragons. The cover is a fun listen for all parents old enough to remember Murphy’s heyday, or perhaps kids who’ve never heard of him at all – at least in his musical guise.

Murphy first unleashed “Party All the Time” at the height of his fame in 1985, shortly after Beverly Hills Cop catapulted him to superstardom. The synth-heavy R&B flavored single went to number two on the Billboard charts. The song has remained popular well into the streaming era, with 46 million listens on Spotify and 75 million views on YouTube.

Young Costello’s lead singer and guitarist John Mike told Cover Me the band was inspired to first perform the cover when they played a reggae festival headlined by the Wailers. “Our music has a tendency to be a bit on the heavier side so we thought it would be a nice way to sort of punctuate the heaviness of our set with something fun and familiar,” he said in an email.

Originally, the band had no intention of recording it but had a change of heart after getting a strong reaction from live audiences. “The more we played it, the more of a demand there was for it,” John Mike said. “The reaction is normally a bit puzzled until the crowd realizes what song we’re covering and then they start to lose it.”

The band revamped the track into a horn-powered jilted lovers’ lament, emphasizing the bluesy elements of the verse. “Girl, I can’t understand it/Why you want to hurt me/After all the things I’ve done for you.” John Mike said the hardest part about developing the cover was revamping the synth part from the original, since they don’t have a keyboard player. “Our sax player, Leo (Téllez), is a real badass with arrangements and he managed to put together a horn arrangement of the synth parts that worked perfectly with the traditional ska style.” When done right, ska covers still work phenomenally well.

Mar 302022
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

On April 7, 1972, the Grateful Dead hit the stage at Wembley Empire Pool in London, kicking off a multi-city European tour. The 22-date outing would eventually be immortalized in the three-LP live album it spawned: Europe ‘72.

The tour has been chronicled heavily in band members’ memoirs, remembered for both its great musical output as well as its levels of unbridled debauchery, excessive even by the standards of the Dead. For the band at the time, the tour felt like a monumental undertaking that included both scores of people and mountains of gear. In A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead, Dennis McNally cataloged everything that came along for the journey, which included: “seven musicians, ten crew, five staff, seventeen assorted friends, wives, girlfriends and children … They brought themselves and fifteen tons of instruments, a sound system, and a sixteen-track recording system which they would install in a truck as a mobile studio. There was also lighting gear and their first traveling lighting designer.”

That spring, the band’s lineup was in a state of evolution. It was their last tour to include founding member Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who would pass away in 1973. The husband and wife duo, pianist Keith Godchaux and vocalist Donna, were firmly entrenched in the band. Mickey Hart was on hiatus after his father had stolen money from the band, leaving Bill Kreutzmann as the band’s lone drummer. Given both this blend of musicians and the high quality of the recording equipment, the shows have a unique sound that differs from other eras of the band’s music.

While many bands use live albums as an easy way of fulfilling their contract or rehashing their greatest hits, Europe ‘72 is very much a complete work in its own right. The 17-track, three record set contained practically a full album’s worth of new material mixed in with older tracks. There are six new songs that were never even included on any studio records, three previously unreleased covers and two instrumental jams. Given the album and tour’s popularity among Deadheads, in 2011 the band released a more exhaustive collection, Europe ‘72: The Complete Recordings, a 73-CD box set.

As Deadhead nation marks the album and tour’s 50th anniversary, we decided to put together our own form of celebration. Here’s a breakdown of live covers of every single track on the album.
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