Sep 272021
 
lil nas x jolene

You’ve all probably heard this story before. It’s the one about the country star who gets too big for his or her britches. They crash, they burn and end up back on grandma’s farm. After a few days of struggling, they get up early, do some farm work, ride a horse, meet a new love interest and suddenly, with acoustic guitar in hand, rediscover their musical roots. Sound familiar? It’s the plot to George Strait’s Pure Country and, of course, Miley Cyrus’ Hannah Montana: The Movie. It’s also the story that every country star weaves a few years after their commercial peak when they go back to old-style country, or bluegrass, or whatever.

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Sep 012021
 
princess nostalgia

Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” has been a country staple for decades now, but in recent years we’ve seen some wild genre-crossing covers. From Lingua Ignota’s industrial nightmare to Chiquis and Becky G’s south-of-the-border Spanish flair to 48 Cameras’ creepy David Lynch fever dream, extremely non-country “Jolene”s have abounded of late.

The latest comes from producer, singer, and songwriter Princess Nostalgia, who gives the tune a bouncy electropop sheen, changing up the rhythm and emphasizing the song’s homoerotic undertones. In an email, she describes the origins of her cover: Continue reading »

Aug 022021
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

billy joel covers

When Bruce Springsteen invited Billy Joel to play with him at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 40th anniversary concert, he described their meeting as the “Bridge and Tunnel Summit.” This crossover surprised no one; the two artists are similar in many ways, riding careers that exploded from modest singer-songwriter origins playing dive bars to filling stadiums across the world. But one of the ways their trajectories have diverged: The Tunnel side of that equation (that’s Bruce from New Jersey) is about 100 times cooler than the Bridge side (Billy from Long Island). As a result, Springsteen songs have been covered far more often than Joel tunes, despite both having quite a few household-name hits under their belt.

Or maybe they’ve just been covered differently. When we did our Springsteen list, we had an abundance of genre-spanning covers to choose from, the hippest artists around finding meaning in Bruce’s work from every conceivable direction. Doing this month’s Joel list, we had an abundance too – of lounge piano. So much lounge piano.

Joel’s songs deserve better treatment than they often get. So we had to dig deep for this list, sifting through the schlock. There’s a little jazzy piano sprinkled in here and there, sure, but there’s also hardcore punk, ’90s R&B, spectral folk, robot electronica, south-of-the-border disco, and more. Turns out there are plenty of revelatory Billy Joel covers out there; they’re just lurking a little below the surface.

Dive in.

The list begins on Page 2.

Jul 302021
 
best cover songs july
Alex Cameron ft. Roan Yellowthorn – Islands in the Stream (Kenny Rogers / Dolly Parton cover)


For a new single, Australian singer Alex Cameron, who has worked with everyone from The Killers to Foxygen, decided to take on two Kenny Rogers tunes written by Barry Gibb. One, “Midsummer Nights,” is comparatively obscure. The other – the one above – is not. Playing the Dolly Parton role to Alex’s Kenny is Roan Yellowthorn aka Jackie McLean, daughter of “American Pie” singer Don McLean.

Annie – Just Like Honey (Jesus and Mary Chain cover)


Norwegian pop musician Annie doesn’t release much music – 2020 saw her first album in 11 years – but she’s got a new EP out in September, Neon Nights. It features some originals and covers. One is the Dirty Dancing song “She’s Like The Wind.” Another is this discofied, but still shoegazy in a more electronic way, take on the Jesus and Mary Chain’s most often-covered song. Continue reading »

May 312021
 
best cover songs may 2021
Amy Speace – Don’t Let Us Get Sick (Warren Zevon cover)

“Don’t Let Us Get Sick” was a moving song even before Warren Zevon got sick, didn’t see a doctor soon enough, and died. After that, the context makes it even more poignant. The canonical cover is Judee Sill’s, but on her new album, Amy Speace gives it a run for its money. Continue reading »

May 212021
 

Teddy & Jenni Do Porter & DollyIn times of trouble it is often to the sounds of comfort we retreat. We need those tunes of a bygone day that reflect happier times, especially if the songs are those of grief and heartbreak. Here we revisit the safe haven of country weepies, the duets of Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, as performed by second generation music royalty, Teddy Thompson (son of Richard and Linda) and Jenni Muldaur (daughter of Geoff and Maria).

Teddy & Jenni Do Porter & Dolly is not markedly different in style than the recent trio of EPs by My Darling Clementine, beyond the age of the originals. The first of three announced tribute EPs by the duo, this one differs in that these are echoes rather than interpretations, and none the worse for that, if with a modern polish buffing up the 1960’s (and 70’s) productions.
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