boygenius ft. Ye Vagabonds — The Parting Glass (Trad. cover)
Every year, Phoebe Bridgers releases a surprise cover around the holidays to benefit charity. This year, she brought in her boygenius bandmates as well as vocal group Ye Vagabonds to cover “The Parting Glass.” It’s a traditional Irish tune, but their version pays specific homage to Sinead O’Connor, who covered it in 2002. Sales benefit the Aisling Project, an after-school project working with children and young people growing up in a disadvantaged area of Dublin. The beneficiary was chosen by the estate of O’Connor, who died in July.Continue reading »
I’ve heard it said that one of the curses of having a hit song is that the artist is forced to sing it for the rest of their life the same exact way it was recorded. While that may be true for some artists (certainly for the Eagles), it has not been the case for the Grateful Dead.
Since they released their first album in 1967, the band has never viewed their recordings as sacred texts. Instead they treated their songs as blueprints, starting places to begin the next great jam. Every time they perform a track, it’s like they’re covering themselves.
Take a song like “Fire on the Mountain.” It was originally recorded by Dead percussionist Mickey Hart as an instrumental called “Happiness is Drumming” on his 1976 album Diga. Robert Hunter eventually added lyrics, and the band began performing it on their legendary Spring ‘77 tour. They later recorded a condensed studio version for their 1978 album Shakedown Street, sung by Jerry Garcia. Since his passing, it’s been performed by many Dead offshoot bands and sung by the likes of Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby, Oteil Burbridge, and, even reggae singer Jimmy Cliff. Each version is so different that I couldn’t tell you what counts as the “original.” One can trace a similar pattern with many of the Dead’s songs through the decades — don’t get me started on “Dark Star.”
Artists covering a Dead song have an invitation to reinvent it, as if at the request of the ghost of Jerry Garcia. Given such freedom, it’s only natural that the Dead’s catalog has inspired countless musicians across genres to put their own spin on the songs. This explains why nearly six decades after the band’s formation, and with the latest incarnation Dead & Company wrapping up this weekend, the onslaught of covers shows no signs of ever, ever stopping. These cover songs guarantee the band’s music will live on long after the last remaining members have passed away.
When tasked with covering a Nick Drake song, your first thought might very well be, are my finger-picking skills up to scratch? Then you’d likely be anxious that your acoustic guitar isn’t tuned in the strange and unorthodox way it should be, while under pressure to do justice to Drake’s deeply poetic lyrics. You might also be tempted to slur the occasional word for jazzy effect, as you basically try to honor a uniquely melancholy acoustic sound that’s become a sacred thing since the English singer’s death in 1974, aged just 26, from an overdose of antidepressants.
The message behind The Endless Coloured Ways – The Songs Of Nick Drake, however, is this: don’t sweat all that stuff.
The newest Drake tribute album curators are Cally Callomon, Manager of the Nick Drake Estate, and Jeremy Lascelles, co-founder of Blue Raincoat Music, who are both keen to popularize Nick Drake posthumously in major new ways. Indeed, now that the Estate has agreed to a global publishing deal with Blue Raincoat Music Publishing, why wouldn’t they be? Lascelles, therefore, claims to have issued “one simple brief to each of the artists” involved in paying tribute to the musician barely recognized in his lifetime, which was to “ignore the original recording of Nick’s, and reinvent the song in their own unique style.” Continue reading »
The title track of the Grateful Dead’s 1977 album Terrapin Station is arguably the group’s most intricate studio creation. Clocking in at 16 minutes, the song blends elements of folk, prog rock, baroque music and jazz, along with extensive percussion tracks and a classical symphonic and chorale finale. The multi-part odyssey features a level of studio precision that the band could never replicate on stage, which may explain why they never played the track in its entirety in concert.Continue reading »
Daniel Romano’s Outfit – Sweetheart Like You (Bob Dylan cover)
This one’s for all the Dylan superfans. In 1984, Bob Dylan played three songs on Letterman with L.A. punk band The Plugz. They were gritty and garagey and raw. It boded well for his new sound. And then he never played with them again. The album he was ostensibly promoting, Infidels, was much smoother, helmed by Mark Knopfler. For those who still wonder what could have been, Daniel Romano covered the entire album as if he’d recorded it with The Plugz.Continue reading »