In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.
No less than The New Yorker once wrote “Jeffrey Foucault, sings stark, literate songs that are as wide open as the landscape of his native Midwest” (and they know from literate). For going on two decades, the unassuming Wisconsin singer-songwriter has been quietly releasing some of the best folk records of the current century. Though maybe not that quietly; he does have people like Don Henley saying he “clocks modern culture about as good as I’ve ever heard anybody clock it.”
Along the way Foucault has released some beautiful covers himself, including a terrific murder-ballads album with Mark Erelli, a John Prine tribute on his own, and a great take on Bob Dylan’s “Señor” just last year. His new album Blood Brothers, though, is all originals. It comes out tomorrow, but you can hear “Blown,” a beautiful duet with Tift Merritt, now:
When we posted covers of every song off Bob Dylan’s 1978 album Street Legal, we discovered many tracks had rarely been covered. “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” was not among them. Even on a divisive album, Street Legal haters or agnostics can agree that “Señor” is solid. We included Calexico’s gorgeous flamenco-inflected cover in that post, but singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault’s beautiful new acoustic version gives that a run for its money.
Foucault, like me, is an ardent Street Legal defender. And for those who can’t get beyond Dylan’s big band and backing singers, his tender and emotive delivery should help drive the point home that “Señor” is one of Bob’s all-time great songs.
We asked him to tell us how he came to cover this song. Here’s what he told us.
In the past 48 hours, three great new covers have crossed our path/inbox. They have two things in common: they’re all songs by Neil Young and they’re all relatively obscure gems. We thought that worth a special roundup for the hardcore Young fans among you (or just anyone who appreciates good songwriting). If you’re sick of lounge-jazz versions of “Heart of Gold,” well, this note’s for you…