Dec 152023
 

Follow all our Best of 2023 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

I like to think that badass lady in the artwork up there (done by our own Hope Silverman!) embodies the spirit of this year’s list. Not that they’re all CBGB-style punk songs—though there are a couple—but in her devil-may-care attitude. “Who says I shouldn’t do a hardcore cover of the Cranberries? A post-punk cover of Nick Drake? A hip-hop cover of The Highwaymen? Screw that!”

As with most good covers, the 50 covers we pulled out among the thousands we listened to bring a healthy blend of reverence and irreverence. Reverence because the artists love the source material. Irreverence because they’re not afraid to warp it, bend it, mold it in their own image. A few of the songs below are fairly obscure, but most you probably already know. Just not like this.

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Sep 112023
 

Yes, Once More does and should sound familiar, it being the completion of a project started some time ago, with Jenni Muldaur and Teddy Thompson tackling the great country songbook, specifically as it relates to the duet format. Initially envisaged as a series of three E.P.s, it seemed to grind to a halt after the first two. These two second generation singers had memorably tackled the pair covering first Porter (Wagoner) and Dolly (Parton), the second George (Jones) and Tammy (Wynette). And then we waited.

This time, rather than a third EP, this release is a full-length disc, compiling the first 2 EPs and adding a further four songs. Again the mastermind behind this project is David Mansfield, veteran producer and player, responsible also for Teddy Thompson’s recent My Love Of Country. It seems pointless to repeat and rehearse the opinions around the first eight songs on this album: the songs and our view of them remain the same. But let’s give due space to the new butcher’s handful. Continue reading »

Jul 262023
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

sinead o'connor covers

When we do our monthly Best Covers Ever countdowns, paying tribute to different versions of a given artist’s songs, it’s fun to surprise people with something unexpected. But a couple months ago, when we counted down covers of Prince, it was only ever a race for number two. The best cover of Prince is, in this case, also the most famous. Most famous for a reason. I’m talking, of course, about Sinead O’Connor singing “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Here’s a bit of Seuras Og’s writeup from that list:

“Arguably a pretty slim item in the hands of its composer, O’Connor gave it a remarkable polish, inhabiting the lyric and bleeding out the meaning. OK, she had, and still has, the vocal chops to squeeze emotion into and out of almost anything, and this song is a masterclass in voice control, of volume and microphone technique. The video, especially as she sheds unprompted tears, clearly adds to the overall heft, but even without that visual, still the power is immense. Completeness also insists on showing how timeless her ownership of the song has been, with a live performance or two, decades apart, each as striking, in different ways, as the other.”

But Sinead O’Connor had a lot more to offer than just her one big hit—and that’s even just limiting ourselves to the covers world. Sure, she topped our Best Prince Covers list, but she also appeared on our Best Elton John Covers list, our Best ABBA Covers list, our Best Dolly Parton Covers list, our Best Nirvana Covers list. How’s that for range?
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Jul 032023
 
best cover songs of june 2023
Aaron Taos ft. Jordana — Under Control (The Strokes cover)

Aaron Taos says: “When Jordana and I met for the first time, we realized very quickly that we both shared an obsession with the Strokes. What’s more surprising is that we also share the same favorite Strokes song, “Under Control,” an album cut off of their second LP Room On Fire. Naturally, we decided that we had to cover this amazing tune. Reimagined as a minimalist duet, this slow burn produced by Blake Richardson (formerly artist Sage Baptiste) also comes with a lo-fi vid shot in Brooklyn, NY. We just want to make Julian Casablancas proud.” Continue reading »

May 012023
 
best cover songs
The Flowers of Hell – Atmosphere (Joy Division cover)

Toronto-London ensemble The Flowers of Hell first released this cover on their 2012 orchestral-pop covers album Odes, but, in honor of its first vinyl release on Record Store Day, it got a new music video. If you missed this wonderful Joy Division cover the first time around, it’s a perfect time to catch up. There’s a new “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft” video too. Continue reading »

May 012023
 

Doc WatsonThere are few more frictions than when folk start discussing who is the best guitarist ever. It’s guaranteed to produce a bevy of opinions, as ever more effusive hyperbole gets trotted out, ever more fierce grudges dusted down, and ever more unlikely proponents pushed forward. So we won’t go there, other than to comment that Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson was probably in the top few, certainly if you remove the anathema of electricity. (To be fair, he probably had way more electricity than many a blues-rock road warrior, but remained resolutely unplugged the length of his days, 1923 – 2012.) He merited a tribute long ago, and now, with I Am a Pilgrim: Doc Watson at 100, he’s got a fairly worthy one.

I Am a Pilgrim is crammed with musicians great and the good, partly drawn from the country/bluegrass/Americana palette he made his home, coming together to salute his playing, his singing and his all round good-eggness. Quite what Watson might have made of such a shindig is anyone guess, the fuss possibly embarrassing the quietly spoken and mild-mannered dude all parties suggest he was.

I first came across Watson’s superlative talent when I was a teenaged schoolboy. A new boy in class was an expatriate Yank, with a precocious talent for fiddle, or violin, as I then thought it was called. He drew my attention to the now and rightly fabled triple album set, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken. My Deep Purpled and Pink Floyded mind was blown, possibly never again grouping back together again in the same way, such was the richness of the material across those discs, as a plethora of country royalty got to spar with some longhair hippies, burying prejudices and forging alliances aplenty.

Doc Watson was a key part of that. His mellifluous picking seemed just so impossibly relaxed and, at the same time, impossible to grasp. Add in his down-homey back porch dialogue, one of the delights of the project, and he just seems the coolest man on earth. Seriously, if you haven’t heard him at full pelt, raising nary a bead of sweat, try to search him out. With all the recordings containing his name–solo, with his son, with his grandson, collaborations aplenty–you can’t go wrong.
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