Dec 142020
 

Follow all our Best of 2020 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

best tribute albums 2020

It’s hard not to look at everything in 2020 through the mirror of the pandemic, and a few of the records on our list can be traced directly to it. One artist used her time in lockdown to cover every song on Radiohead’s The Bends, while another did the same thing with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. An indie label pulled together a tribute to one of the many great artists tragically taken by this goddamn virus, Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger. Hal Willner’s long-in-the-works T. Rex tribute album wasn’t supposed to have anything to do with current events, but Willner, too, died of COVID-19 in the spring.

That being said, the majority of the albums on our list have nothing to do with the news. Any year’s a good year for covering obscure Neil Young songs. And if you want to try to tie 28 different bands covering Blink-182’s “Dammit” to 2020, good luck. Even the klezmer-cabaret artist who recorded an album covering the recently deceased released it March 13, just before she’d unfortunately have many more names to add to her list.

In a way though, the whole concept of the covers record is appropriate for a bleak year. They’re all about paying tribute in some way or another, lifting up influences or even guilty pleasures, honoring those that came before. You can listen to these through that prism if you like. Or you can just take a break from thinking about such things and listen to 28 covers of “Dammit.”

– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

The list starts on the next page…

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Nov 302020
 
best cover songs november
Ashley McBryde – You’re Lookin’ at Country (Loretta Lynn cover)

The Country Music Hall of Fame recently presented a video series called Big Night at the Museum, getting modern country and Americana artists to cover Hall of Famers. Lucinda Williams did Johnny Cash, Miranda Lambert did John Prine, and a bunch more. Best by a blonde-streaked hair was Ashley McBryde, a performer who skirts the line between country, Americana, and brawny rock, proving her bona fides on Loretta Lynn’s “You’re Lookin’ at Country.” Continue reading »

Oct 212019
 

Ruston Kelly's Dirt Emo Vol. II was drawn to review Ruston Kelly’s Dirt Emo Vol. 1 by Kelly’s bold move of putting a T-Swift cover on an “emo” cover album. The choice of “All Too Well” was oddly prescient, given Taylor Swift’s recent Tiny Desk performance. To be fair, I dare you to find something more emo than these lines: “Hey, you call me up again just to break me like a promise / So casually cruel in the name of being honest.” The choice seems less strange once you learn that Kelly is no stranger to country music. He is based in Nashville and has helped pen country songs, including Tim McGraw’s “Nashville Without You.”

Digging into Kelly’s emo cover album, I found that the teaser Taylor song was actually not one of the standouts. Instead, the strength of the album comes from the songs where he specifically taps into his country roots in more unexpected ways. Two songs made me move beyond reminiscing about the originals and allowed me to hear the songs from a new perspective.

Continue reading »

Sep 302019
 

Check out the best covers of past months here.

best cover songs september
Anderson .Paak – Old Town Road (Lil Nas X cover)

Given how thoroughly “Old Town Road” dominated the summer – the longest-reigning Billboard #1 in history, for those under-a-rock-dwellers among you – it seems shocking that it took until now for the first truly great cover to emerge. Less shocking: that it came from rapper/singer/drummer extraordinaire Anderson .Paak. Back in May, he performed a more straightforward version with Lil Nas X himself, but for BBC’s Live Lounge he and his band The Free Nationals reinvented it into a soul groove with shades of D’Angelo. Continue reading »

Aug 132019
 
colleen green covers blink-182

Is Blink-182 getting – dare I speak the word – cool?

They’ve always been popular, of course – and appear to have remained so even after co-founder Tom DeLonge left to hunt aliens – but hardly something you would bring up around your hipper friends. But we’ve now seen two tribute albums in as many years. The first came from avant-garde bass player B.E.N. in 2017. And now rising indie singer-songwriter Colleen Green has released another, the literally-titled Blink 182’s “Dude Ranch” as played by Colleen Green. And get this: It’s also played entirely on bass. Bass players really love Mark Hoppus, I guess. Continue reading »

Mar 092018
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

It is somewhat ironic that most people know only one song by The Only Ones— “Another Girl, Another Planet.”  Originally released in 1978, it received minimal airplay and attention, but its reputation has grown exponentially over the years.  The Allmusic review of the song asserts that it is “arguably, the greatest rock single ever recorded.”  Of course, people will “argue” about anything, and choosing “Another Girl” as the greatest rock single ever is a bit of a reach, but you have to give the reviewer his due for taking a stand.  It is a great song, and it is fitting that it ultimately received the acclaim that it deserved.

The Only Ones formed in London in 1976, led by distinctively anguished vocalist and songwriter Peter Perrett joined by guitarist/keyboard player John Perry, Alan Mair on bass, and drummer Mike Kellie.  Featuring strong songwriting by Perrett and surprisingly (for punks of the era) competent playing by the band, they self-released a single, “Lovers of Today.” It sold well enough that a bidding war broke out among major labels looking for the next big thing. Continue reading »